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April 23, 2012

No Bull Runs for Costa Rica

Humane Society International/Latin America

  • These events are dangerous and inhumane. Fernando Alonso Herrero/istock

by Cynthia Dent

Should an animal be afforded dignity and protection against cruelty?  In Costa Rica, the answer was a resounding “Yes,” effectively halting a proposed Pamplona-esque bull run.

Bringing bull runs to Costa Rica

At the beginning of 2012, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce joined with several private companies to try to bring “Pamplona y Más” to Costa Rica, with one of the main events featuring a bull run similar to those held at the San Fermin festivities. Traditionally, Costa Rica has had modified bull runs, where a bull is thrown into a ring with several people teasing the animal and avoiding getting hit by him.  The new proposal was meant to emulate the Pamplona bull run, with a 700-meter course, with sharp corners, through which the bulls would run.

The public reacts

Animal welfare groups and other concerned citizens protested the activity on many grounds, citing the sharp corners of the run and the inappropriate flooring.  HSI, along with several other NGOs, reacted strongly to bringing another culture’s cruelty into Costa Rica and started an aggressive campaign against the event. HSI/Latin America sent a letter to the Department of Animal Health, urging the denial of necessary permits on the grounds of poor animal welfare. The Association of Psychologists, the Association of Biologists and the Association of Veterinarians all sent out public statements renouncing the bull run, specifying similar concerns. At the same time, three organizations presented a case to the constitutional court, basing their argument on the bull run's representing an infringement on animal welfare.

Constitutional victory

Costa Rica’s constitutional court declared the “Pamplona y Más” bull run unconstitutional, showing in a historic vote that animals should be treated with diginity and must be protected against mistreatment. Given that this is the highest constitutional court in Costa Rica, it sets an important precedent, to be celebrated.

Cynthia Dent is regional director of HSI/Latin America.