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
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
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.
VM: 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
Q: In this country, we like to sue a lot. Did you think of
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.]
TM: 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
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.
TM: 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...
VM: ....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
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
Washington, DC 200
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.
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
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.
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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