Is this the face of the conservation movement? Is this how this Enlightenment struggle is going to be fought? 31 people injured, 12 of them women, most, presumably, with families, children, their own hopes and ambitions. Should they be the victims of a protest? Should anyone be a victim in the struggle for animal rights?
Being a supporter, admirer and would-be aficionado of bullfighting does not disqualify me from the argument. I think bullfighting is an art form, primitive, beautiful, stark and humbling. Not only that; it is a means of entertainment, especially in Latin American countries, for many downtrodden people with not much else to look forward to (isn’t that, surely, the thing to protest about, poverty?).
The debate over bullfighting has heated up in Colombia over recent years. In 2012 then-mayor of Bogota, where the bomb was exploded, banned bullfighting, but the constitutional courts overturned him citing bullfighting a means of artistic expression. A protester called Maytik Avirama was quoted as saying: “When it was banned we felt a sense of triumph over the elites, not just for animal rights activists but for a whole society that doesn’t want more violence. The return of the bullfights is a huge backward step.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/24/colombia-bullfighting-ban-protesters-clash-police) Avirama, who is an ecologist, makes an eloquent point, but would she condone the actions of the bomb-makers?
The bomb-blast in Bogota is not an isolated incident. Daniel Andreas San Andreas is on the FBI’s most wanted list. A vegan, environmentalist and so-called animal liberationist, he detonated several bombs across America The ridiculously self-named Tre Arrow was a well-known arsonist in conjunction with the Earth Liberation Front. In September 2010 James J. Lee, a lone gunman inspired by environmental activism took hostages and was shot dead by authorities. And the infamous Unabomber, was an eco-terrorist responsible for 23 injuries and three-deaths through letter bombs.
Is the environmental lobby doing enough to condemn these acts of terrorism? (Déjà vu, anyone?)
Of course there is a debate to be had about bullfighting. Even the most ardent aficionado deep down knows it is inhumane. Indeed, the very beauty of the spectacle comes from the blood-lust it demands. No one has ever suggested refining bullfighting. It can’t be done. It either stays, as it is, or it goes entirely. But terrorists like the Bogota activists are automatically disqualifying themselves from the civilised debate – no matter how valid their arguments. They’re no better than Farc.
The bomb blast took place before the start of the first bullfight to be held in Bogota for four years after the ban had been lifted. The timing is crucial: it made more of a splash. And there is a double-tragedy to be unearthed in the rubble here. Conservation and awareness of animal rights are revolutionary, vital movements in our world. Species are being lost at a frightening rate all over the world, the coral reefs are being destroyed, as are rainforests and our poles, there is a grossly lucrative wildlife trade, in exotic pets, ivory and shark fins, and people are losing touch with the biomes outside the ever-expanding cities. We need more art, literature, debates, and action to stop all this. But not like this. This throws people off. Just as ISIS creates Islamophobia so eco-terrorism and radicalism creates mistrust of a necessary movement.
Some people who’ve seen the news and read about the blast might retort: but most of the injured were policemen, and they’re hardly innocent. Such a cynical, pathetic, left-liberal, hippie argument doesn’t even deserve a response. But I’ll respond anyway. I’ll respond the same way the Italian poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini replied to student protests in the 1960’s. During the Battle of Valle Giulia when 4,000 left-wing students tried to take over a university, the protesters clashed violently with the police. Pasolini, an outspoken Communist and defender of the waylaid Italian lower-classes, would be expected to side with the students in their battle against the forces of authority. But he didn’t. He argued, that the students are the children of the bourgeoisie, whilst the police are the sons of working class families just doing a job, earning money.
The facts may differ in the Bogota case. But the sentiment is the same. The police fighting back against the protesters were just doing their job. They were not the ones killing the bulls. They were in no way involved in the bullfighting industry. Their responsibility was to the law, to their paymasters, and their duty. Admirable men, just like the soldiers daily fighting for our safety in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These police are the true victims here. Not the bulls. Not the bulls.
Despite original reports that a policeman was killed in the blast, it turns out that the explosion left no casualties. But it could have. And would that have pleased the assailants? Bulls may be sentient, but they can’t even dream of being capable of complex feelings such as tragedy, bitterness, vindication, anger and melancholy the families of the victims could feel. Protesters have a sacrosanct right to protest. And despite my affinity for bullfighting I welcome – like a good dialectical materialist – dissenting opinions and welcome the protests. But not like this.