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Peru: Cries of Animal Abuse in Defense of Surfing Alpaca

The video from the Peruvian television program Reporte Semanal that shows an alpaca named “Pisco” supposedly surfing, guided by its trainer, Domingo Pianezzi, himself a surfer, has been attracting a lot of attention. This Reuters blog post has several photographs of the surfing alpaca. The stunt is especially interesting because the alpaca is an Andean animal from the South American camelid family and has a lot of hair necessary to withstand the low temperatures in the Andean mountains. Even though there is mention that before the arrival of the Spanish that the alpaca could also be found on the coastal wetlands, it is difficult to imagine these animals interacting with the ocean and with the high summer temperatures.

Photo of Peruvian alpaca by Craft*ology and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of Peruvian alpaca by Craft*ology and used under a Creative Commons license.

Those who have seen the video come away with the impression that the surfing alpaca is not very comfortable, and it even jumps into the water when fear takes over. This is different than other ‘surfing’ animals, such as dogs that appear to enjoy the experience even more. To judge for yourself, see the video [es].

For many in the beginning, the surfing alpaca was something praiseworthy or something to proud of as Peruvians, as can be seen in the comments section of the story in the El Comercio newspaper [es]. However, there were also comments against this stunt from those who accuse the surfer of animal abuse. The same newspaper published another article where animal-rights activists express their concern for the well-being of the alpaca [es] because it was taken out of its natural habitat and was in contact with salt water. The alpaca's trainer describes the safety steps that are taken, such as plugging the animal's ears and rinsing it with freshwater after being in the ocean.

However, for many those measures do not appear to be enough. In the blogs, there are many voices that are in disagreement with this “sporting practice.” For example, Roger Torres Pando writing in the blog Perú Antitaurino [es] writes:

Cabe señalar que este deportista, profesor de surf para niños, está violando la Ley Nº 27265, Ley de Protección a los Animales Domésticos y a los Animales Silvestres mantenidos en Cautiverio, así como el Artículo 450-A del Código Civil. Entonces, ¿qué tipo de formación puede dar a las futuras generaciones un señor que no respeta a los animales y con ello a la naturaleza?, ¿acaso los padres antes de enseñarles a sus hijos a pararse en una tabla no deberían enseñarles valores para ser mejores hombres?. Desde acá exigimos a la Dirección de Flora y Fauna Silvestre y también a la Policía Ecológica, rescatar a esta inocente alpaca de las garras egoístas de este “deportista”.

It should be noted that this athlete, surfing teacher for children, is violating Law No. 27265, Law to Protect Pets and Wild Animals kept in Captivity, as well as Article 450-A of the Civil Code. So what kind of training could he be giving to future generations when he does not respect animals and nature? Shouldn't have his parents, before teaching him how to stand on a surfboard, teach him values to be better men? From here we call on the Department of Flora and Fauna and the Environmental Police to rescue the innocent alpaca from the clutches of this selfish “athlete”.

The blogger RBC also was not in agreement and writes in his blog De Todo un Poco…y que Dios nos Coja Confesados [es] and asks Question: Who is more of an animal?:

A diferencia de un labrador retriever, una alpaca NO se lanza al mar a nadar, sino observen sus patas dobladas sobre la tabla por el temor al que está expuesto en el mar. Pero Pianezzi dice que su mascota “se está acostumbrando al agua”,…. si si como no. Sería interesante que este entrenador haga surfismo en la cordillera de los andes y encima calato…

Unlike a Labrador Retriever, an alpaca DOES NOT dive into the ocean to swim, just look at its bended legs on top of the surfboard because it is scared of being exposed to the ocean. However, Pianezzi says that his pet “is used to the water”…. right, of course. It would be interesting to see this trainer surf stark-naked in the Andes mountains..

In the blog Tecnología [es] the blogger writes:

nos preguntamos que sentirá la protagonista de esta nota, solo podemos decir que se le ve mas echada en la tabla (como algunos principiantes) que como todo un surf y solo atina a caerse de la tabla que a correr la ola.

we wonder what would the main character of this story feel, all we can say that it appears laying down on the surfboard (like some beginners) and only manages to fall from the surfboard to ride the wave.

The blogger from Interiorismo de Verdad [es] also reflects:

(refiriéndose al perro NdE) Creo que la amistad del ser humano con los animales es lo que debemos cultivar y enseñar a los nuestros y creo que el entrenador de San Bartolo Domingo Pianezzi, ha desarrollado una gran amistad con su mascota ala cual enseño a meterse ala playa con el y subirse a la tabla, como una muestra de lo que el compañerismo logra es impresionante, … pero ahora que en las noticias sale con la novedad de la alpaca Pisco se convertiria en su nuevo alumno de surf, creo que ya lo esta realizando solo para tener publicidad porque no me parece adecuado que este animal de un habitat diferente al de la costa tenga que habituarse al mar ser trasquilado para evitar el calor de la costa, ya se lo imaginan?

(in reference to the surfing dog) I think the friendship between human beings and animals is what we must nurture and teach and I think the trainer of San Bartolo Domingo Pianezzi has developed a friendship with his pet, which he taught to go to the beach with him and climb aboard the surfboard, which is an example of impressive companionship, … but now comes news that the novelty of the alpaca Pisco that would become his new surfing student, I think he is only doing this to gain publicity because it does not seem appropriate for this animal from a different habitat from the coastline must get used to the ocean, and must be fleeced to avoid the heat from the coast, can you imagine that?

In Facebook, there are two groups Pisco the Surfing Alpaca that appears to be in favor of the stunt and Surfing Alpaca? I would say animal abuse [es]. The second El Comercio article mentioned contains a polls with the question “Are you for or against the surfing alpaca?” At the time of publication there is 43% in favor and 57% against.

Translation by Eduardo Ávila

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