American ingenuity has figured out another way to make money by putting innocent animals at risk. Several cities across the United States have decided that it’s a fun and exciting idea to bring the “Running of the Bulls” to hometown America.
Here it will be called the Great Bull Run. Cities in Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Florida, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania are set to host bull running events beginning in August 2013 through 2014. The first bull run is scheduled for this coming Saturday, August 24th, in Richmond, Va.
“Too scared to run with bulls?” the event’s web site asks. “It’s not as dangerous as you think. In fact, there have been only 15 deaths in the Pamplona running of the bulls in the past 102 years!” Only 15 horrible, painful, bloody deaths — it’s hardly worth mentioning.
The “running of the bulls” tradition, of course, comes from the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in “The Sun Also Rises.” Over the course of nine days in July, groups of aggressive bulls are loosed in the streets of Pamplona to run toward the bullfighting ring, while rowdy revelers race ahead and beside them. The event in 2013 caused injuries, some severe, to 206 participants. The most recent death occurred in 2009.
According to the organizers of the American multi-city event, the bulls will not be abused or ill-treated. “We don’t hit them, shock them or deprive them of food, water, light or sleep,” they say on their website. “In fact, we have a veterinarian on site at all times to make sure the bulls are treated properly and are perfectly healthy before, during and after each run.”
That being the case, one wonders what motivation will be used to encourage the bulls to “run.”
At last count, over 5,000 people have signed up to run with the bulls in Richmond. That list grows by about 50 people per day. In each location, several runs per day are scheduled to accomodate the crowd.
Here’s a video of a similar type of bull running event held in Cave Creek, Az.:
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) objects to the Great Bull Run. It has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to initiate an investigation. According to HSUS, “events such as these, which exhibit animals for entertainment and compensation, must be licensed by the USDA pursuant to the federal Animal Welfare Act.” Apparently, event organizers have no such license.
“These bulls, they’re not going to run because they’re happy. They’re not going to run because they’re content. They’re going to run because they’re scared,” said HSUS spokesman John Goodwin to NBCChicago.com.
Organizers promise the bulls will not be as “aggressive” as those used in Spain. Nevertheless, participants must sign a waiver — an impressively long multi-page waiver. Participants must acknowledge that the risks include things like:
- Contact or collision with:
- Live animals, including, but not limited to, bulls, steers, cattle or horses;
- Other participants, spectators or course personnel;
- Inanimate objects, including walls, fencing, crates, bales and other barriers;
- Environmental hazards, including extreme heat, extreme cold, humidity, ice, rain, fog, mud, dirt, dust and prolonged exposure to sunlight;
- Erratic or inappropriate behavior by fellow participants;
- Property loss or damage, broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, deep lacerations or puncture wounds, exposure, heat-related illness, damage to internal organs, mental stress or exhaustion, infection and concussions;
- Catastrophic injuries such as permanent disabilities, damage to internal organs, spinal injuries and paralysis, stroke, heart attack and death.
The waiver even empowers the organizers to make medical care decisions on your behalf if you’re incapable of doing it yourself. You in turn agree that you’ll pay for all those medical care costs. That must make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
With all this inherent risk of trampling, goring and generalized mayhem, would it surprise you to learn that two attorneys came up with the idea for the Great Bull Run? Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder always wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona, but never managed to make the trip. They decided that must be true for lots of Americans, so they decided to bring bull running to the United States. Yes, they’ll be running at the first event in Richmond.
“The bulls run about 15 miles per hour,” Dickens told Richmond.com. “They run much faster than people. Instead of starting at the starting gate, both here and in Spain, you line yourself up somewhere on the quarter-mile track. You wait for the bull to come to you and then you race or run with the bulls.”
Once they’re done running, “the bulls return to their free-range ranch where they relax in open fields,” says the event website. Well, maybe not. According to Businessweek.com, Dickens says people will be running with trained rodeo bulls worth about $10,000 apiece. Bulls for East Coast and Midwest events will be trucked in from Kentucky, while a ranch in the West will provide the bulls for West Coast events.
At least one location has changed its mind and cancelled its Great Bull Run. Officials in Shakopee, Minn., decided the safety concerns were too great and deep sixed the event, originally scheduled for Canterbury Park. Organizers are looking for another venue in that area.
OK, thrill seekers. Go sign that heavy duty waiver and run around in front of those bulls, but if you get hurt because they’re scared and you’re freaking them out, that’s on you. The bulls didn’t choose to be there or to have daredevil wingnuts running around beside them in the middle of a screaming crowd of spectators.
I’m rooting for the safety of the bulls.
If you’d like to voice your opposition to these cruel and dangerous events, sign this petition to the USDA asking them to require licensing and strict oversight as required by the Animal Welfare Act.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock