But talking Canadians
into understanding the nuances of person-bull combat is another
matter, she admits. "When I heard we were going to Canada
I thought it was a joke," she says.
And already, the bullfight,
scheduled for the Big O August 21, has stirred up anger among
animal rights activists here, garnered overwhelmingly negative
res-ponses from callers to a Pulse phone-in show and left
Montreal's SPCA in the sticky position of fending off accusations
that it is collaborating with the enemy. Clearly, the bullfighters
are going to have a bigger fight on their hands than they
The bullfight will
be conducted Portuguese-style, without bloodshed. The bulls
will wear velcro jackets, and the banderilleros used
to stab them will be fuzz-tipped instead of pointy--equipment
developed for Californian bullfight fans some years ago.
The Montreal SPCA's
involvement in the bullfight in particular has shocked animal
rights activists and spokespeople from other Quebec SPCAs.
The local SPCA, which helped to successfully block a proposed
bullfight last year, says it is this year joining with the
promoters to make the fight more humane. For its troubles,
the organization will receive 25 cents for every ticket sold
to the event.
The SPCA maintains
that after the eight bulls undergo their ordeal at the Big
O, they'll spend the rest of their lives in a pasture on
an Eastern Townships farm.
"The SPCA is anti-bullfight
of any sort," says Montreal SPCA director Pierre Barnoti. "Our
highest hope is that it won't take place. But we said, 'Give
us the bulls. We'll find a farm on which they can retire.'"
Other animal rights
activists, however, say the SPCA's presence in the plans
impairs its credibility as an animal rights organization. "You
don't see Greenpeace getting money from [forestry conglomerate]
MacMillan Bloedel," says Andrew Plumbly of Global Action
Network. "It would be seen as buying them off--paying for
their silence and endorsement."
Plumbly also questions
the feasibility of keeping the bulls on a farm for the rest
of their lives, a commitment, he says, that would cost about
$1000 per bull per year.
Animal rights activists
like Plumbly are against bullfights not only because of the
physical hardships they say the bulls undergo--including
having to endure pre-match starvation, vaseline rubbed in
their eyes to blind them and a force-feeding of epsom salts
to make them unbearably thirsty--but also the psychological
implications of using animals in entertainment. "The animal
is going through a terrible ordeal in the name of entertaining
someone; giving someone a laugh to watch an exhausted animal
running around a ring--I have a problem with that," says
Plumbly claims the
bullfight has not received any formal support from the Portuguese
community and that the only people who will attend are those
who "get off on violence and dominating animals."
As to the cultural
questions, he says, "Slavery used to be a part of our culture.
So was beating your wife. We have moved on, thankfully."
Says Pellen, whose
father was a bullfighter: "The Spanish tradition is shocking.
When I was a child, I closed my eyes when the picador stabbed
the bull. It really wasn't a pretty sight. But with the Portuguese
bullfight, people have no reason to complain."
Suzanne Thomas, a
spokesperson for the bullfight promoters, denies the use
of vaseline and epsom salts on the bulls, says they are not
starved, and insists they are well-treated every step of
the way. "How come they don't say anything about the rodeo?" she
She gropes for an
explanation of the bullfighting magic caballero Pellen
hinted at: "If you read Hemingway you'll see it's really
an art. The relationship between man and bull is like a kind