Covid-19 succeeds in months where animal rights activists failed over years

Bullfighter Andres Roca Rey performing during the Senor de los Milagros festival at the Acho bullring in Lima, Peru, in 2016. The annual festival, which usually takes place in October or November, was cancelled this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Bullfighter Andres Roca Rey performing during the Senor de los Milagros festival at the Acho bullring in Lima, Peru, in 2016. The annual festival, which usually takes place in October or November, was cancelled this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LIMA • In a matter of months, the coronavirus achieved something that animal rights activists failed to do in decades: put a halt to bullfighting in Peru.

The annual Senor de los Milagros (lord of the miracles) festival at Lima's Acho bullring that usually takes place in October or November was cancelled this year due to Covid-19 restrictions. The 14,000-capacity ring is being used to provide shelter for homeless pensioners affected by the pandemic.

"There will be no bulls this year," said Mr Rafael Puga, 72, a retired bullfighter.

It is the first time since the festival began in 1946 that it has been cancelled.

Bullfighting is hugely popular among Peruvians. Peru has more bullfighting arenas than football stadiums.

In Peru, "there must be 700 bullfights a year with 2,500 bulls killed", said Mr Puga.

But they have all been banned due to the pandemic. Football, meanwhile, restarted in August after a five-month hiatus.

"The fact that there aren't any bullfights in the provinces is like death for breeders. Some won't be able to survive because the cattle eat every day," said Mr Juan Manuel Roca Rey, who organises bullfights and also rears bulls.

"This doesn't just affect us artists but everyone who works around a bullfight," said bullfighter Fernando Villavicencio, 34, adding that the ban has also affected those who make the fighters' heavily embroidered suits and cattle transporters.

But animal rights activists are celebrating. "It's good news. There's no reason for the bull festival to go ahead," said activist Luis Berrospi.

In February, Peru's top court rejected a lawsuit brought by animal rights activists hoping to ban cock and bullfighting on the grounds that they were unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court ruled that "there is no universal declaration of animal rights that has been adopted by either the UN (United Nations) or Unesco".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2020, with the headline 'Covid-19 succeeds in months where animal rights activists failed over years'. Print Edition | Subscribe