Decrying the event as animal cruelty and "an unprecedented act of bad judgment," an animal-rights group has attacked plans to Americanize the running of the bulls in a small Nevada town.
The Humane Society of the United States blasted the Mesquite, Nev., City Council last week after the council voted 3-2 to emulate an event that has been held for more than 400 years in Pamplona, Spain.Phoenix-based Running of the Bulls America Inc. hopes to coax 1,000 runners to pay $50 each to run a quarter-mile route through the heart of town on July 11, chased by a dozen range bulls.
"We're rather shocked that the City Council would exhibit such poor judgment in sanctioning events that threaten human safety and animal cruelty," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS senior vice president.
Pacelle discounted promises by event promoters that the bulls would not be mistreated.
"We think that anyone who believes that is extraordinarily naive," Pacelle said in a telephone interview from his Washington, D.C., office. "The event is built on antagonism between the participants and the bulls. It's like saying you could have a boxing match without slugging each other.
"There's no allure if the bulls are not running and not in a frenzy," he added. "You don't normally see range bulls tearing around and running around. There will be harassment and abuse to make them run."
Pacelle called the proposal "an unprecedented act of bad judgment" by the three council members favoring the plan.
Promoter Phil Immordino has promised the bulls will not be agitated, the way they are in the annual run in Pamplona, where at least 13 people have been killed.
"I would ask how they propose to get these animals running fast for a quarter mile," Pacelle said. "These are not quarter horses or greyhounds. They are not bred this way."
Immordino said the bulls used in Spain are antagonized and "bred to chase people and kill."
"The bulls we're using are range bulls," he said. "They're not looking to kill anybody. They're just looking to run down the street."
He said cowboys on horseback would be "whistling and screaming" to get the bulls running.
"If they don't chase the runners, then we have a flop," Immordino added.
Pacelle said he expected protests and possible civil disobedience at the event, although he was not sure the Humane Society would play a role in any public protest.
He said his organization would "shine the national spotlight" on Mesquite, a town of 10,000 some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in an effort to get the council to reverse its decision.
Council members Alice Fessenden and Lyle Hughes voted against the project May 26, with Fessenden saying it would create image problems.
Mayor Ken Carter had previously expressed support for the project, if Immordino could satisfy safety and insurance concerns.
Immordino, whose company promotes bull-riding events around the country, tried to sell the bull run idea to Phoenix and Long Beach, Calif., before turning to Mesquite.
Long Beach backed out after animal-rights groups protested, he said. In Phoenix, the issue was safety.