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November 1996
The Satya Interview: Vicky and Tony Moore's Spanish Crusade

By Mia MacDonald


For 10 years, Vicki and Tony Moore have been working to document and end the abuse of animals - cows, bulls, birds, donkeys, goats and others - in fiestas and bullfights throughout Spain. Through their small organization - it's mostly them - FAACE (Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe) works in alliance with Spanish activists to educate the public about the cruelties involved. Last year, while videotaping a "fire bull" festival, Vicki Moore was gored severely by the bull. Now nearly fully recovered, she and Tony, a guitarist and bandleader, were recently in New York where Satya spoke with them about their work and the prospects for change.

Q: Why did you start doing this work? As you've said, you were a woman living in the northwest of England who was interested in animal rights, but not an activist.

VM: It truly chose us. I read a small newspaper article about a donkey in Spain about to be crushed by a crowd. Once we knew, we couldn't turn our backs. First I began by writing letters, and then I felt I had to go. In 1987, I went to Spain and pleaded for a donkey's life. Soon after I was receiving death threats. I have Spanish blood, so in a way I have a feeling that it's something in my heritage that I have to try and redress. I've been working in Spain now for 10 years, joined with Spanish nationals, asked by them to help them in this fight. And I can tell you it is a terribly complex situation. We're still learning about it.

Q: Can you describe the village festivals you have seen and videotaped that center on animal torture? Most people have never heard about these.

VM: Bullfighting in Spain actually encompasses what are called "fiestas populares," and they take place all over Spain. In the last government statistics, there were 15,000 of these events. There are about 37,000 animals killed in the bullrings and on the streets every year; 2,000 are bulls killed in the bullring. So you can imagine the magnitude of the tragedy. In the main the victims are bulls and cows, as well as small calves. It's quite common to see a calf a few weeks old having various instruments of torture thrust into it, as well as a full-grown bull four years of age and older. A lot of these things will be enacted on the animals for up to four or five hours before they're killed.

The fiesta populares also use chickens, ducks, pigs, birds - cats have been known to be used, as well as dogs, in very rare instances dogs - virtually any animal that is to hand, like rabbits and squirrels. [Ed. note: The Moores showed a video of the fiestas which included scenes of a goat being thrown from a church bell tower; blindfolded teenage girls trying to hit the head off live chickens, hung upside down; bulls with flames attached to their horns running through a village (one of these "fire bulls" gored Vicki); a bull being stabbed with large numbers of hooks and, at one point, being blinded by a hook; and a drunken donkey being forced to stand up and be ridden. The Moores make the point that the majority of these festivals are not historic remembrances; they have been invented in the last 20 years.]

Q: How do you work? What are you doing to try and bring about change?

VM: When we started working 10 years ago there was a lot of common knowledge but very little visual evidence. So the Spanish government found it very easy to deny any challenge about this cruelty. They said, "Oh, it doesn't happen. These people are exaggerating." Or, "Well, yes, but it happened 50 or 60 years ago. It's not something that's relevant now." So we've devoted 10 years to building a massive library of video and photographic evidence (first we did it with a camera because we couldn't afford a video). We've challenged the Spanish authorities with this at a national and a regional level. We've also taken it to the European Parliament. At present, it does not have what they call "political competence" to deal with these issues. But we are looking forward to a federal Europe, which probably will come; and when it does, it will have the legislative powers to issue overall cruelty legislation. That is our aim. It's not what we achieve now, it's what may be achieved in the future. Our work has been done with great difficulty because there is very little money for this. We can all help by putting pressure; but in the end it's got to be Spain that changes it, and Spanish people who say, "Enough."

Q: You were seriously gored by a bull yourself last year. In fact one person watching the video of this asked Tony why people had thrown a rag doll in front of the bull; that "rag doll" was you. Can you talk about this, and the human toll of the fiestas?

VM: To be honest, I've had 15 months of hell since it happened, pain you wouldn't wish on another human being. People have often asked about how I feel about the bull, Argentino. He was actually sold to the village because he was too dangerous for a bullfight. The last personage to blame is poor old Argentino. It was just unfortunate that he decided to find the window where I was desperately trying to climb to find a perch to video. He clobbered me. It was quite a miracle that he didn't have a final flick, because that's normal. But I felt there must have been some protective power that got me through all this, because when I got to the hospital I was actually declared dead. I rather think that maybe in his mind, something told him that maybe.... Anyway, that's just one of those things.

TM: I'll tell her injuries: she had eight very badly smashed ribs and a punctured lung. One horn went through her and scratched the backbone. She had a horn right through her foot. She lost a kidney and a bit of a bowel. She had 11 serious horn wounds and was in intensive care in Spain for four weeks, and then in intensive care in the U.K. for another week, and then [it was] another week before they allowed her home.

Boring, boring. [Still] there doesn't seem to be much breakthrough with the Spanish authorities. Last year, for instance, 16 people died in these fiestas, and that is quite a common figure. [But], that doesn't seem to make much difference with them [the authorities] either. So we have two fronts to fight, the animals and the humans. Often the people are innocent: they're just caught up in it, they're not involved in the fiesta.

Q: In this country, we like to sue a lot. Did you think of this?

TM: We could have sued them. I was told while I was there, "you could pick up $70,000," point blank.
VM: Without any argument. They said we could sue for a million or so without too much trouble. [But] as someone fighting for the animals, I didn't want their money. I didn't want to be bought in any way. Having said that, I encourage any Spanish person who has been injured or had a relative killed to sue them for all they can. Because then the villages won't get insured, and when they don't get insured, it's yet another angle [to end the fiestas populares.]

In the town where Vicki was injured, a boy was killed three years ago, and they're suing, quite rightly, for three million dollars. The mayor at the time [of Vicki's injury] said to my representative, "I will pay all of the medical fees." So I said, right: "You pay them." [And] I announced to the newspapers that the mayor was a very generous man, a man of honor, and that he was going to pay all the medical expenses. I didn't see him because I was too upset - enraged actually. I wanted to get out of the car and hit them, but I knew that would be wrong. I sat there with my head in my hands....

Q: Like much institutionalized animal cruelty, like factory farming, there's money to be made by an industry. Is this the case with the bullfights and fiestas populares?

VM: It is an industry. There is an awful lot of money. These animals are sold to these villages for thousands and thousands of dollars each. The price for a fighting bull is $15,000. For a fiesta animal about $6,000. There are salesmen going out to the villages marketing animal fiestas. They say, "We'll put the bulls in, we'll do the posters for you, the barriers, the seating, the advertising." So all the mayor has to do is sign the check with municipal money and maybe a kickback. There is a lot of money involved. And that is why it is growing.

Q: Is there other violence - against people - that accompanies the violence against animals?

VM: In Spain they say that bullfights and the fiestas populares are a good thing, a safety valve, contradicting every study that's been made in the world about the connection between violence to animals and its effects on society and human beings. But it's beginning to get out, the fact that when they've finished ripping the animals limb from limb [young men] then go out and uproot all the trees, smash windows, rip the wing mirrors off cars, and knock around and abuse any poor woman who seems to fall in their way. They call her everything they can think of. So you're getting the same sort of degenerative effect on society that everyone else has, and the connection is only just being recognized in the rest of the world.

Q: How do you respond if people say you're selectively attacking one country and a culture and that it's racist or imperialistic?

VM: People say, "Well, what about fox hunting in England?" and I say, "Yes." I am the first person to acknowledge that we have violence against animals, and the first person to condemn England for these things. But the difference is that it is not officially organized, promoted, and paid for by the government, as in Spain.

Q: Can you give details about what goes on behind the scenes in bullfights? Most people don't know. There is still a lot of glamorizing of the image of the toreador and the bull, even in a current TV commercial for a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

VM: The bullfight is an exceedingly fraudulent spectacle, because the bulls are manipulated in so many ways. They have their horns shaved, they're drugged, they are bloated with water before they even go in the ring, so [that they] move slowly. They are bred for docility; their feed is engineered. In many cases, they are custom bred for certain matadors.

Shaving the horns means taking about four inches off the end of the horn. They do this within 24 hours of the bullfight. If you do it much earlier, infection can set in quite badly or they can get used to it and get to know where they are. [Because of this] the bull loses his sense of judgment, of where he's going, and there is also the possibility that he's going to feel the pain when he hits something. The most important thing of all, as far as the bull is concerned - and this is why they really do it - is that the bull loses a sense of self. Suddenly, his horns have been shortened, and he's not quite sure what he is. So they do this within 24 hours, because actually...

....they then give him a massive dose of Immobilon, which is the same drug that many veterinarians use to euthanize an animal. So by the time the poor old bull has had all this, he is in a very debilitated state. In 1992, the bullfighting law was supposed to clean out this corruption. All it actually did was give a legal loophole to practice it: the second article in the law is the promotion and protection of bullfighting by the Spanish state. The definition of bullfighting also includes the bull fiestas. So all of this is existing under the wing of protection of the Spanish government, and is paid for [with subsidies] by the Spanish government. There is also corporate sponsorship, Coca-Cola mainly, and an awful lot of Japanese [electronics corporations] sponsorship.

Q: Do you see any impact from your work? How do you see change coming about?

VM: Even animal loving people in Europe think we and our Spanish compatriots are battering our head against a brick wall. "Why waste time?" they ask. "We hate it, but it's going to go on forever." We feel that this has been the attitude for far too long and that unless people make some sort of stand now, it will go on forever. So we're making a stand, with our compatriots. The Spanish press is not a great help, because who owns it and the television? The bull-breeders. So you can imagine what happens to poor Spanish animal rights activists when they try and speak up. [Still] the movement in Spain is growing, slowly but surely. It's still small by American or British standards, but nevertheless it is there. And we know that our cumulative effort can be handed on to another generation and maybe, before all that long - perhaps in our children's time - there will be an end to this sort of tragedy.

Q: Are there coalitions you could form with other groups, say feminists, who are also anti-violence?

VM: It's difficult to say, because again it's not that long ago that Spanish women actually got divorce. It sounds a very strange thing to say, but many of the girls ignore [the young men who harass them after a fiesta or bullfight] and they sort of giggle. They don't take it that seriously, because women have always been messed around, and they don't quite realize what it's all about. But there are an awful lot of career women emerging in Spain now, and I know from my personal friends that they're not going to take what their mothers took. So it's coming. It may come.

To contribute to FAACE and for videotapes of Spanish fiestas and last year's British protests against live exports (see sidebar), contact: FAACE, 29 Shakespeare Street, Southport, PR8 5AB, U.K. Watch for Vicki and Tony and their video documentation on an edition of "Dateline," the NBC newsmagazine, this month. Mia MacDonald is an animal activist and writer who lives in Brooklyn

The Spanish Embassy Responds

Satya Assistant Editor Julie Hughes contacted the Spanish Embassy in Washington for a statement on the Moores' charges of animal cruelty and government sponsorship. A spokesperson who identified himself as Nogues, explained that the Spanish government has no official policy on bullfighting because it is privately run and is considered entertainment. However, the government has certain rules and regulations for bullfighting, including time limits on the fights. After checking with superiors at the Embassy, Nogues denied that the Spanish government subsidizes bullfights or fiestas populares. He said that bullfighting is a private enterprise, and that no relationship exists between the government and bullfighting. Nogues added that he was sympathetic to the Moores' mission and is himself opposed to the practices as, he said, are many people in Spain.

What You Can Do

Vicki and Tony Moore suggest that the following action is the most effective if you want to help stop organized animal cruelty in Spain.

Write to the Spanish Consulate in New York and the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C., to express your concern and desire for authorities to act to end animal torture in fiestas and the bullring and sponsor non-violent festivals. Write also to the Spanish Tourist Bureau to express your concern and request a statement on the issues.

His Excellency Ambassador Antonio Oyazabal
Spanish Embassy
Washington, DC 200
Spanish Consulate
New York, NY

Live Export Update

Vicki and Tony Moore also participated in and documented on video last year's tumultuous protests in England against the live export of calves, sheep and lambs to the European Continent. One extraordinary fact is that the average protester was a 50 year old, Conservative Party-voting woman. Here, Vicki Moore gives an update on the current export situation, her thoughts on why the protests galvanized Britain, and some ideas about what might happen next.

1995 protests

Basically what the British people in our Southern coast towns said [last year] was, "Enough. We don't want this." The animal producers all wanted it to continue because they were making a lot of money from it. So [when the ferry companies refused to carry live animals] they hired boats and aircraft. All sorts of crooks got involved in it: the animals were traveling on forged papers, false journey logs. They were putting planes in the sky that weren't airworthy and boats on the sea that weren't seaworthy. They were pushing these animals out anywhere they could. And, strangely enough, the people of these small towns saw what was happening and a sort of miracle happened. We got entire townships protesting, for months and months and months. For policing Brightlingsea alone, it cost an extra $7 million, and this happened all over the country. So it was a massive amount of pressure on our government.

Tony and I went down many, many times to Brightlingsea [a small village on the coast of England], and we thought, "This is going to be history. In 10 years, this is going to be very, very important social history." They won their battle because in all these small ports, particularly Brightlingsea, the trade was stopped, and they pulled out of Shoreham, and from Coventry airport.

The current situation The live trade started again as of July 1996. To date some 30,000 animals have actually gone out via [the port of] Dover. No more calves are going out because of BSE ("mad cow disease"), although sheep and lamb are being exported. [The producers] were forced in the end to send everything out via Dover, which they call the Gateway of England. They could also call it the Fortress of England. It's very tough to protest there. Dover hasn't had the success of Brightlingsea.

Future possibilities

Nevertheless, these wonderful people from the public and animal rights did win a victory. I hope that in this coming year or more we will win the final victory because we have an understanding that if the Labour Party is returned to government, they will seek a ban on live exports. We could actually unilaterally stop live exports tomorrow, but the government makes money [and] it's put into power by the farmers. The farmer's union is a massive force. At the moment it's a perilous situation to be in. But I do believe in all honesty that on this issue the animal movement is going to win. I believe that most strongly.

- Mia MacDonald


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