May 28, 2010
Today, actor, producer and writer Ricky Gervais has partnered with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to call for an end to the cruel practice of bullfighting, and urge tourists to stop supporting such brutality on their travels.
Bullfighting is widely marketed to U.S. tourists as a cultural “experience,” especially in Europe and Latin America. And, despite the fact that a majority of Americans are aware that bullfighting causes unnecessary pain to animals, more than 6.2 million have been to a bullfight at some time in their lives.
“Sometimes the worst kind of cruelty is done in the name of entertainment. It sickens me to know that people still pay money to see an animal tortured to death. Cultural heritage is no excuse for inflicting such pain on a frightened and confused animal,” Gervais says in a PSA for WSPA launched today.
Watch the video below:
Gervais is also urging people worldwide to put pressure on the Catalonian Government in Spain, which is now preparing to vote on a proposal to ban bullfighting, by signing WSPA’s petition. “We want them to know that there are people all around the world who care which way they vote, and are hoping to see them put an end to this cruel ‘sport’,” adds Gervais.
One quarter of a million bulls are killed each year during bullfights and bull festivals. A 2009 WSPA poll of 2,740 Americans who travel internationally showed that 55% are aware that bullfighting causes unnecessary pain to animals and 42% believe it is a blood sport that has no place in a civilized society.
“Tourists are still attracted to these events because they believe that the bullfighting experience is part of the local culture and they want to see what it is all about,” says Cecily West, WSPA U.S. Executive Director. “However, there are certainly better ways to enjoy and appreciate a country and its unique offerings - whether visiting a national park or participating in an eco tour.”
Bullfighting takes place primarily in Europe (Spain, France, Portugal and festivals in Bosnia); Latin America (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, plus fiestas in countries including Brazil, Panama and Nicaragua); North America (‘bloodless’ bullfights); Africa (Kenya – bull against bull); and Asia (India – bull against bull; and China – man against bull). The bullfighting season runs from April to September in Europe and October to February in Latin America.
As the world’s largest alliance of animal welfare organizations, with at least one member in virtually every country of the world, WSPA is able to work where there is the greatest need to stop animal suffering and cruelty. The WSPA animal welfare community has a diverse range of high profile supporters including Simon Cowell, Leona Lewis, Miranda Richardson, Tiffani Thiessen, Kristin Davis and Christina Applegate.
Q&A with Ricky Gervais
Why did you get involved with WSPA?
“My first love was nature and wildlife, and, in particular, animals. I think animals are all unconditionally perfect, and beautiful. Animals really matter to me, and WSPA is trying to stop needless acts of animal cruelty all over the world. One of their campaigns is against bullfighting. It sickens me to know that in this day and age, people are still paying money to see an animal suffering in such a horrific way.”
“The bull is stabbed for around 15 minutes by spears, spikes and daggers. It dies slowly and painfully, because when the matador sticks the final sword in, it often pierces the lungs instead of the heart, and the bulls are left drowning in their own blood. It’s amazing that there are fans of this so-called ‘sport’ across the world, from Spain to Latin America. I just can’t accept that cultural heritage is an excuse for inflicting such pain on a frightened and confused animal.”
But if it’s popular, can anyone really stop it?
“There’s already quite a bit of progress being made. At the moment, the Catalonian Government in Spain is on the verge of voting for a ban on bullfighting. It could be a real step forward, so I wanted to get involved with this campaign to let Catalonian MPs know that there are thousands of people all around the world who care which way they vote.”
“Anyway, it’s not even that popular anymore – a survey a couple of years ago showed that 72 per cent of Spaniards have no interest in it. In Barcelona, they’ve had to cut the number of bullfights they have because audiences are getting smaller. They don’t even show it on TVE, the main public TV station in Spain! Even in Latin America it’s in decline - there’s a city in Ecuador that has publicly declared itself anti-bullfighting.”
Would you ever go to a bullfight?
“Absolutely not. It’s basically paying to keep cruelty alive. Some people might go to one on holiday because they see it as a cultural experience, but they should think hard about it, and take their conscience with them on holiday.”