Thanks to the efforts of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), California will never again play host to the Great Bull Run.
A Pamplona-style event, the Great Bull Run travels around the country to various venues, putting on an Americanized “running of the bulls.” Here’s what happens at a typical event.
The Great Bull Run transports a group of three dozen bulls by truck from state to state to participate in these shows. That means that in addition to the noisy, scary run itself, they must endure the discomfort of being dragged around the country from event to event. Organizers set up a large fenced-in track and release as many as 35 bulls weighing as much as 1,500 lbs. each. Those huge, frightened animals speed down the course, encouraged along by riders on horses behind them. The assembled crowd screams and hoots all around.
Participants line up along the fence, where run organizers urge them to run alongside the bulls, not in front of them. Do they listen? Not so much. Have they been drinking? For some, probably yes.
Meanwhile, the bulls just run, clearly not understanding what all the surrounding furor is. The paying participants run with them and in front of them, trying to avoid being trampled and injured. Not everyone succeeds. All this happens multiple times at each event. To see what a run is like from a participant’s point of view, watch this video taken at a 2014 event in Pennsylvania:
After one such 2014 event in Alameda, California, PETA and ADLF joined forces to see if they could put a stop to this madness. In California, at least, they’ve succeeded.
In March 2014 PETA and ALDF brought a lawsuit under the state’s Unfair Competition Law. In California, anti-cruelty laws prohibit causing bulls unnecessary suffering and forbid staging “bloodless” bullfights or similar exhibitions. PETA and ADLF asserted that the Great Bull Run violated these state laws.
“As a bovine veterinarian, I can confirm that these bull runs are extremely stressful for the bulls and present substantial risk of injury to them, as well as an enormous public safety risk to the humans participating,” Dr. Holly Cheever, veterinarian and vice president of the New York State Humane Association, told the ALDF.
Ultimately, the parties settled this case out of court. In exchange for getting the suit dropped, the Great Bull Run agreed not to bring its bull running event to California again.
Oddly, the CEO of the Great Bull Run, Robert Dickens, is spinning this settlement as something of a victory for his company. He says the PETA and ADLF didn’t present any real evidence of animal abuse and “didn’t intend to win the suit. They simply wanted to waste our time and money in Federal Court — a game we were unwilling to play,” he told Reuters.
Spin it any way you want, but this is a win for the bulls and we all know it. Animal rights advocates got what they wanted.
The bulls “will never again have to endure a 35-hour, 2,300-mile trek across the country, from Kentucky to California, to be subjected to fear and stress for the fleeting gratification of [Great Bull Run’s] human participants,” ADLF’s Matthew Liebman told Courthouse News.
When you put it like that, why would anyone want to participate in this event?
“The Great Bull Run is a disgrace wherever it occurs,” said ALDF executive director Stephen Wells. “But that will never again be in the state of California. We will continue to push for this ridiculous spectacle to be shut down across the country.”
It looks like the pressure is working. Reports say Great Bull run organizers are changing tactics–they intend to turn this into a single “destination event” held once a year rather than a traveling road show around the country. The Los Angeles Times reports that the only event scheduled for 2015 is a run in Chicago in July.
That’s progress. So thanks ALDF and PETA. You’ve helped make the lives of these bulls a little less difficult. Maybe if we keep pushing, this kind of event can disappear completely.