Kenyan animal welfare network prevents showcase of cruelty

Dec 19, 2008

This bull seemed destined to fight, but animal welfare groups stepped in

A Kenyan form of bullfighting, in which two bulls are encouraged to fight each other, was prevented from taking place in the capital Nairobi this month by the joint efforts of a network of animal welfare groups.

The fights are not traditional in the Nairobi Province and are banned by Kenya’s animal welfare laws, but the organizers argued that bullfighting would encourage tourism and won the support of Kenya’s culture and tourism ministers.

Suffering from the first

Even before fighting, which ends in serious injuries and even death, the bulls would be forced to endure a long journey from western Kenya, where the practice originates. Travelling in unsuitable vehicles, they would arrive hungry, thirsty and weak.

Hearing of the plans, the Kenyan SPCA rallied other groups, including fellow WSPA member society Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), Animal Welfare Action Kenya (AWAKE) and Kenya’s Veterinary Association and Board.

Together, they approached the fight organizers, outlining the danger to animals, the potential damage to international tourism, and the illegal nature of the event.

Josphat Ngonyo, chairman of AWAKE’s Policy and Legislation Committee, summarizes their concerns: “Bulls deserve lives free from pain, injury, fear, distress and discomfort … in bull fights they are given drugs and intoxicating substances to provoke abnormal fighting behaviour.”

But the organizers aggressively defended their plans and the groups could not prevent the bulls being brought to Nairobi.

Laying down the law

This work done to protect this bull from fighting has set an animal welfare precedent

With the fight dangerously close, urgent action was needed. AWAKE worked with WSPA Africa on a high court injunction.

This legal action, supported by Kenya’s network of animal welfare organizations and the Department of Veterinary Services from the Ministry of Livestock Development, called on Nairobi’s police commissioner to stop the bullfight.

Existing laws prohibiting animal cruelty made for a solid case: AWAKE obtained the commissioner’s commitment to preventing the bullfight.

While the organizers threatened to press ahead, they did not attempt to defy the police and abandoned the fight.

Stopping the spread of cruelty

While sadly these animals could not be confiscated from the owners at this time, it has been established that bullfighting will not be tolerated in Kenya’s capital, removing any incentive to increase the breeding and transporting of ‘fighting’ bulls in the future.

Nick de Souza, WSPA Africa regional manager, comments: “The result for animal welfare is critical. The fight was stopped before it started, saving the bulls from torture, but more importantly the network of animal welfare organizations working together has delivered a strong message to the Kenyan public creating awareness that animals are sentient and protected by law."

Let’s protect animals worldwide

Kenya’s animal welfare laws and willingness to enforce them meant this bloody event could be stopped. But not all nations have such laws, nor is there any international agreement recognizing the importance of animal welfare.

Please join our campaign for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare to protect animals around the world.

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