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Animal activists cry foul over "bloodless bullfighting" event in Artesia

May 26, 2009 |  5:46 pm

Venezuelan matador Leonardo Benitez during a 2002 no-kill bullfighting event in Artesia.

Animal activists are taking issue with a so-called "bloodless bullfighting" event held last weekend in Artesia -- and they're urging Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley to press charges against the company that supplied the bulls.  The bullfight -- staged as part of the Festa da Bola, a three-day festival celebrating Portuguese culture -- was interrupted by a humane officer working with the organization Animal Cruelty Investigations.

The group says the officer "discovered the bull fighters were using long wooden sticks with several-inch sharpened nails on the end to stab, torment and infuriate the bulls.  [The officer] noticed the bulls were being stabbed when he saw blood and puncture wounds on the bull when the animal was being returned to the trailer from the ring.  The bull had been repeatedly stabbed with up to 8 sticks." 

In a bloodless bullfight, the animals are not killed in the ring, and their shoulders -- which are pierced with javelin-type implements in a traditional bullfight -- are covered with Velcro.  But despite their name, such fights are "anything but bloodless," Animal Cruelty Investigations spokesperson Jane Garrison told our colleague Carla Hall.  

Others say the bloodless fights are exactly what they claim to be -- a statement on the website of bloodless bullfighting company Ranch Cardoso describes the events as "'Nerf' bullfighting."  The bulls are treated with respect, the site alleges, adding that the fights it produces are "no different from rodeos, horse jumping events, horse racing, etc. An animal or a person can easily get hurt from a simple horse show just as easily as they would from the bloodless bullfight."

But animal advocates have doubts about such claims.  From Hall's story:

"They'll tell you that the padding on a bull's back is enough to keep from puncturing the bull," said Eric Sakach, a Sacramento-based Humane Society official. "But it's only an inch to an inch-and-a-half deep. It does hurt the bull. Is it enough to kill the bull? No. Is it enough to make the bull mad? Yes. And it's completely not in keeping with the law."

According to the California Penal Code (Section 597m), any bullfight exhibition -- even a bloodless one -- is against the law. There is one exception: "bloodless bullfights . . . held in connection with religious celebrations or religious festivals," the code states. And Artesia's Festa da Bola has its roots in religious traditions.

Jose Avila, editor of the Modesto-based Portuguese Tribune, said the bulls fight for about 15 minutes each and then go off to a slaughterhouse. But before that, he said, "For four years, that bull is free. He does what he wants. He eats what he wants . . . The bull is treated like a king."

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Venezuelan matador Leonardo Benitez during a 2002 no-kill bullfighting event in Artesia.

Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

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