This year has marked a sea change in the city of Medellín, Colombia regarding animal rights. The local government has been supporting the annual bullfighting festivities for years, but this year, for the first time, the mayor has dedicated a portion of the bullfighting budget (roughly $6,700 USD) to support the anti-bullfighting movement.
Blogger Jorge Montoya in his weekly radio show, has invited several personalities to discuss the anti-bullfighting movement in the city of Medellín: Mauricio Gómez from the animal welfare group, Defenzoores; Julián Vélez, a Bullfighting journalist for El Colombiano and Jorge Melguizo, Secretary for the Municipal Offices of Culture.
Julián Vélez covers the bullfighting beat at El Colombiano and supports the bullfighting festival as a generator of economic benefits for the city as well as a source of jobs that result from the annual festival which takes place during January and February. He insists that bullfighting has won fans in the last few years and that La Macarena bullring is fuller this year than ever, despite contradicting claims by detractors.
When asked if he would support a bullfight that would not require the death of the bull, but rather be focused on music, traditions, and other parts of the festival, he answered that he would not support it, that the most exciting time of the bullfight are the last three steps leading to the animal´s death. He argues that these animals are raised and reared for the bullring and that a properly performed bullfight does not hurt the animal too much if one takes into account the endorphins, adrenaline and other chemicals that flood the bull´s body. He underlined that the bulls are well taken care of, that they live like kings for the 4 years prior to the fight, that animals are not prodded or harrassed before going out to the ring, and that any practices that make the animal suffer before the moment when the bullfighter and bull face off are not supported by the fans.
Secretary of Culture for the City Jorgue Melguizo also gave his reasons to support this anti-bullfighting movement, based on the program “Medellin, the most educated one”. The mayorship has given out 15 000 000 (about $6,700) to support the movement against bullfighting, backing the initiative where the population is being educated on different points of view, so the citizens themselves can form their own opinions. He doubts that any fans of bullfights will change his or her point of view due to this campaign, but that those who haven´t made a decision will be able to study opposing arguments and then define their position as for or against the fights. The secretary did mention that they will continue to support the bullfights, but that wanted to reserve a part of the bullfighting budget for this educational opportunity. They have received many emails from around the world congratulating the Medellin mayorship for their support of the movement against bullfights. Melguizo also notes that this initiative has really put them on a map they were previously unaware of: the worldwide animal protection groups on the internet. As a side note, he comments on his surprise on the great numbers of youth who are walking under this animal rights banner with solid ideas, organization and the urge to be part of this education initiative.
Mauricio Gómez from Defenzoores exposed the different steps in the animal´s torture, starting from the flags attached to the animal to distinguish it´s house to the final moment of death, which usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes. He commented that although the bull is raised to fight, it isn´t trained, whereas bullfighters are trained and armed before facing the bull, making the competition more than a little uneven. In comparison he brought up the recortadores of other countries, that face the bull without any weapons, jumping and doing acrobatics around the bull without killing it as an option to the torturing of bulls.
Defenzoores took the city in celebration on Thursday morning with a festival against bullfights, where they showed videos, gave out t-shirts, brochures and talked to the community about the bullfights and why they are against them. This anti bullfighting celebration will take place these following weeks around the city: they´ve even included a religious aspect to part of their programmed activities. They will ask for the Virgin of the Macarena´s forgiveness, since it is her image that is paraded into the ring before every fight. The other events will take place in popular nightspots throughout the city.
According to Mauricio, this is the first time in the history of all 8 countries with bullfighting traditions where the government has supported the anti bullfighting movement, and they have many reasons to celebrate and share their energy and point of view with the rest of the city.