Stop bullfighting in Portugal

  • by: Viola Kaesmacher
  • recipient: Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, President of the Portuguese Republic, Republic of Portugal
We, the undersigned, consider every sort of bullfight a barbaric and morally unacceptable activity that ought to be immediately banned. We demand the total ban of bullfights in Portugal.
Background Information

In Portugal, Spanish type bullfights or death bullfights have been forbidden since at least 1928, when the Government considered these events inappropriate for a civilised society (bullfighting had already been totally forbidden in Portugal in 1836, but that law only lasted for an year).

Generally, the bullfighting tradition in Portugal, though morally unacceptable, is less brutal than the Spanish one, since the show does not involve the killing of the animals in the arena. However, over the years and going against the law, Spanish type bullfights are held mainly in a small village named Barrancos, in Alentejo (south of Portugal), on the Spanish border.

Over the years, the people of Barrancos have been repeatedly breaking the law by killing the bulls at the end of the bullfights. The Portuguese people became aware of this about five years ago, when a Portuguese TV channel broadcasted the slaughter of the animals and denounced what was happening in that village. Since then, several animal rights organisations intervened, namely through legal actions, as well as through public demonstrations and other activist interventions, asking the Government to enforce the law in Barrancos (it is important to establish that we are against all sorts of bullfights, but in Portugal we only have legal means to prevent Spanish bullfights, since Portuguese bullfights are unfortunately legal).

One of the organisations most involved in this process has been ANIMAL. After a great effort carried out by the main animal rights organisations in Portugal, namely by ANIMAL; after countless surveys, which show that the majority of the Portuguese people (85%) are against death bullfights and support police intervention (ordered by the Government) to bring those brutal practices to an end; and after many legal actions with successful results in court, the Portuguese Government was exposed and pressured to take the necessary measures to enforce the law in Barrancos. But the law was never enforced, since the people of Barrancos kept threatening the Government with a rebellion against the police, defying not only the law but also several judicial orders.

To these threats the Government always responded with fear, justifying their inaction on the “principle of proportionality”. Meaning that the evil that was to be prevented (the killing of the bulls) was less important than the evil that could be done with a heavy police intervention (a forceful injuring of many of the Barrancos people opposed to the police action). Of course, in this case, this principle is absurd and has no legal support; it was only a bad excuse for the Government to justify its inaction.

However, not only has that law not been enforced in these last four years of legal battles and social protests, but there were also attempts to change or revoke the law in the Portuguese Parliament, which were twice refused by the majority of Portuguese Parliament members

One of these attempts was, however, half-successful in 2000, when the law was changed, maintaining the prohibition of death bullfights, but no longer determining jail sentence to whoever disrespected it. Instead of a crime, engaging in killing the bulls in bullfighting became a contravention. Still, the prohibition of such spectacles was kept.

Unfortunately, due to the powerful pro-bullfighting lobbies that work their influence in the Parliament and in the newly elected Government, the law was finally revoked about three weeks ago, against all the demands of animal rights organisations, against the will of the majority of the Portuguese people, and, of course, against the most fundamental moral principles that we all must uphold to.

And however incredible as it may seem, the President of Portugal was the main responsible for this setback our country has witnessed regarding legal protection for the animals. It was the President of Portugal who exhorted the Government and the Parliament members to allow death bullfights in Portugal. It must also be said that Mr. Jorge Sampaio is very fond of bullfights and used his institutional powers to favour his personal disgusting tastes.

The newly approved law, not only allows for the cruel death bullfights in Barrancos, but also leaves the way wide open for it to happen anywhere in the Country. So far, 32 other Municipalities have already claimed the right to hold death-bullfights!

We have solid reasons to believe that this legislative measure was mostly motivated by the power of the Spanish bullfighting industry and its influent lobbies in Portugal (it is important to remember that the killing of bulls in the arena is not even a Portuguese tradition, but a Spanish one).

Still, we are preparing a legal action to respond to the present situation on juridical terms, as difficult as it may be.

However, this response is clearly not enough. Since ANIMAL has done almost everything that can be thinkable of in terms of activism in Portugal, we believe that it will not be effective to organise some kind of protest, demonstration or other action of this kind in Barrancos, at least this year, not even only in Portugal. We believe that we may come to achieve better results if we expose this situation internationally, namely in other EU member-states, in the US and in other countries where the Portuguese Governmental and Legislative authorities could be embarrassed by that denouncement.

So, we are preparing a combined international action for which, in order for it to be successful, we are counting on your kind help and co-operation.

The death-bullfights in Barrancos take place on the last three days of August (with the slaughter of two bulls on the 29th, another two on the 30th, and of a cow and a bull on the 31st).

Our plan is to hold simultaneous demonstrations in front of as many Portuguese Embassies and\or Consulates as possible, all over the world, on the 29th, between 3:00pm and 6:00pm, (GMT) Greenwich time, when the first bullfight is programmed to happen.

It is particularly important that this can happen simultaneously at this time, in the EU member states, in the US and in other countries where the animal rights organisations are willing to co-operate in this action.

It would be more than enough if about a dozen activists could carry out a public demonstration of this sort in each country where we could assure it to be possible. We are sending material for these demonstrations (two posters – one in Portuguese and another in English –, a press release and some suggested slogans, both in Portuguese and English) by e-mail to the organisations and groups that are ready to cooperate. These materials will have ANIMAL’s logo on, and we would appreciate if the organisations participating in this action could also include their logos.

Since it is also very important to have good media coverage, we are quite sure that we can get at least the Portuguese public TV channel (RTP) to cover all the demonstrations. We have no confirmation yet, but we can probably assure that another Portuguese TV channel (the most important one - SIC) will also cover the demonstrations. So, one of the activists will have to be the spokesman of the demonstration, as it is really necessary to have someone in each demonstration that can explain what its purpose is. And the purpose is not only to reinstate the prohibition of Spanish-type of bullfights, which are being promoted in so many Countries around the World and are being openly pushed into Portugal by the strong Spanish bullfighting lobbies, but we want to demand the total ban of every sort of bullfights in Portugal. And we have every reason to demand it firmly, since bullfighting is ethically unacceptable and is a moral scandal that cannot be allowed in a civilised country.

The message of these demonstrations is that the World stands along with Portuguese animal rights organisations and with the majority of the Portuguese people condemning bullfights and demanding its total ban.

But the message is also that the Portuguese President, Government and Parliament Members have legalised one of the most barbaric activities that can be performed, by approving the torture and brutal killing of animals as if it were an acceptable form of entertainment. As so, these responsibles for the main Portuguese political institutions have the blood of all those innocent animals in their hands and the World is here to denounce it and to express its total disapproval for it.

Furthermore, the World is warned now, and a boycott to the Portuguese tourism will soon be started and will last until bullfighting in Portugal is totally and unconditionally forbidden.

What we are asking you is, quite frankly, for your precious cooperation in helping to carry out this plan in your country. We are trying to stop this cruelty that is committed against animals in our country and we are facing many adversities. But we firmly believe that we can be successful with this combined international action and that it can assure efficient results.

Animals need our perseverance and commitment, but in Portugal we cannot do much more by ourselves. We really need your help, for the animals and for the ethical principles that we all share.

We feel very happy in having you with us in this ethical battle, benefiting from your help and co-operation.

On ANIMAL's behalf, I thank you in anticipation.

Yours, very truly,
For the Animals,
Miguel Moutinho
Cell phone: +351962 358 183; E-mail:
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