From the bull fiestas of Spain to the Yulin dog meat festival, there are many events and enterprises across the world that, while cast by enthusiasts as a celebration of tradition, culture, and religion, can be more accurately described as cruel and anachronistic. For years now, Humane Society International has been confronting these spectacles of cruelty with the goal of ending them once and for all. This week, we celebrate the end of one vicious form of animal abuse dressed up as culture – at a festival in Mexico, called Kots Kaal Pato.
The cruelty perpetrated at Kots Kaal Pato is unimaginable: small animals and ducks are strung up like pinatas and crowds of men line up with sticks to beat these animals to death or to cut off their heads. This gory celebration has gone on for decades, but this weekend, when the festivities begin, there will be no killing, thanks to HSI’s work. Instead, Mexicans will focus on the festival’s religious significance, and children and parents will participate in traditional sports and contests. HSI will be there to hand out prizes to winners.
Festivals have long been a mainstay of societies, and many have, through history, involved blood spectacles. Some of these gory “festivities” have died of their own accord, but others have been exceedingly difficult to uproot. Those are the ones we have in our sights.
Last year, HSI/India helped bring an end to Nepal’s Gadhimai festival, the world’s largest animal sacrifice. Adherents slaughtered nearly 500,000 animals during this festival, which occurs every five years. HSI/India was also key in ending the tradition of Jalikattu, a “sport” that traumatizes bulls, as part of the annual harvest festival in south India. In China, we are working to bring change, helping people to see dogs as friends rather than food, and to end the slaughter of dogs and cats for meat. The Jinhua dog meat festival was banned in China in 2011 after huge protests, and this year, once again, we are in Yulin, working to end the dog meat festival there that begins in June.
We work with the powers that be as well as religious authorities to ensure such change is lasting. In Yulin, we are meeting with Chinese officials to broker an end to the festival, and to raise local and global awareness. HSI/Mexico helped negotiate the decision to end the cruelty at Kots Kaal Pato with the involvement of the local municipality, the local Catholic Church authorities, and local animal protection organizations. In Gadhimai, Nepal, our HSI/India staff and partners worked with the temple trustees to end the massacre which had been going on for nearly 265 years. They helped the trustees recognize that the time had come to replace the killing with peaceful worship and celebration.
HSI is also campaigning in Spain to end the bull fiestas where the animals are tormented and chased on foot and horseback, before being stabbed to death, and in Veracruz, Mexico, where, during the Embalse de Toros event, bulls are forced to drink alcohol, then beaten and drowned. We are seeking an end to government subsidies in Europe and Mexico for bullfighting, with the goal of ending that gruesome “sport” once and for all.
Taking on blood spectacles at festivals often involves butting heads with people who quickly invoke tradition as a shield. But under the light of the world’s growing humanity, these spectacles are nothing but shameful. We cannot unwind the clock and undo the damage caused to animals over decades or centuries, but we can say “no more, never again.” That’s our goal, and we’ll not relent until sunlight penetrates every dark corner where this kind of violence and cruelty has survived for too long.