Over 270 eminent international scientists ask Catalonia to abolish bullfighting

Over 270 eminent international scientists ask Catalonia to abolish bullfighting.

Since the legislative process for the abolition of bullfighting in Catalonia – put forward via a Popular Legislative Initiative – began in late 2008, Catalan Parliamentarians have been receiving a steady trickle of letters and manifestos in favour of the abolition of bullfighting in this Community.

Whilst the abolitionists have always had greater support from the scientific community, that position has now been permanently consolidated: leading international scientists, academics and researchers in the field of violence, signed and sent a declaration calling for an end to bullfighting and warning of the negative effects these events can have on society, above all on the formation of new generations. These 273 distinguished figures from 16 countries – researchers, professors and legal professionals – reminded the Catalan Parliament that science should be an inspirational impetus for Laws and Regulations, and that the violence of the bullfight must not be overlooked “clearly, violence is violence, irrespective of the victim”, they argue.

As they state in their letter, “Animal abuse is a serious societal concern with important significance for human welfare. It is increasingly clear that a world in which animal abuse goes unchecked is also a less safe world for human beings.”

In their letter, the signatories state that research “shows (…) that simply witnessing animal abuse perpetuates the cycle of violence – through desensitization and modelling. Particularly younger people who repeatedly witness animal abuse could “learn” to use violence in their personal relationships.” they declare. “As research scientists, psychologists, sociologists, criminologists and legal and human-service professionals, we are concerned about the contribution that animal abuse makes to problems of violence toward humans (…) Prudence and precaution would call for legislative action that takes this connection into account.”

“Turning directly to the practice of bullfighting, societies differ both by custom and law in what they consider (and what they have considered at some time in their history) animal abuse. Bullfighting is one of many practices that is increasingly being considered and questioned within countries and regions where it was at one time popular.”

Distinguished Members of the Catalan Parliament:

It has come to our attention that the Parliament is considering a Popular Legislative Initiative that would modify and strengthen an article of the Animal Protection Law in Catalonia.

We respectfully write to you with the hope that you may find our comments useful when deliberating on this important decision. As research scientists, psychologists, sociologists, criminologists and legal and human-service professionals, we are concerned about the contribution that animal abuse makes to problems of violence toward humans.

A significant body of research demonstrates that animal abuse is closely associated with wife battering, child maltreatment, and other forms of interpersonal violence, all of which society has a substantial interest in preventing. Prudence and precaution would call for legislative action that takes this connection into account.

Animal abusers are more likely to be violent towards people and to engage in everyday common crimes. One extensive study (Arluke, et. al., Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1999) showed that animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes such as assault, rape, and murder; four times as likely to commit property crimes; and three times as likely to commit drug-related crimes. Research also shows a particularly strong connection between animal abuse and domestic violence. Those that perpetrate violence towards animals are more likely to abuse spouses or children.

Clearly, violence is violence, irrespective of the victim, and people who resort to violence in dealing with animals are also more likely to do so in their relationships with humans. Whether against an animal or human, these perpetrators use the force and power of violence to dominate and control others.

What some of you may not be aware of is that, In addition to the relationship between the perpetration of animal abuse and interpersonal violence, direct exposure to animal abuse can also lead to future violent behavior towards humans. Recent research shows and it is important to understand that simply witnessing animal abuse perpetuates the cycle of violence – through desensitization and modeling. Particularly younger people who repeatedly witness animal abuse could “learn” to use violence in their personal relationships.

Given the robust body of evidence linking animal abuse to violence towards humans, many governments have moved to strengthen animal protection legislation, and law enforcement and government agencies in several countries have adopted policies based on these findings. For example, several jurisdictions in the United States have instituted cross-reporting and cross-training between human services and humane agencies. In addition, The Federal Bureau of Investigation uses animal abuse data to help them track and identify violent offenders. Social workers have been taught the need to report animal abuse, and police officers have been trained to look for signs of child and gender-based violence when investigating cases of animal abuse. More recently, child protection services, women shelters and local police departments have begun to interface with veterinarians and others entities involved with animal care, and animal abuse reports are being used as indicators of homes where child abuse or wife beating may be taking place.

Turning directly to the practice of bullfighting, societies differ both by custom and law in what they consider (and what they have considered at some time in their history) animal abuse. Bullfighting is one of many practices that is increasingly being considered and questioned within countries and regions where it was at one time popular.

From our point of view, it is clear that bullfighting shares the major features of those forms of animal abuse found to be associated with violence to humans. Force, power, dominance, and control are all components of the bullfight. Severity of the harm done to animals is also an important variable in the association. The slow and ritualized injury of bulls, culminating in their death, is comparable to instances of severe or egregious abuse.

We are particularly concerned with the impact on people who witness bullfighting. Juveniles who witness the repeated stabbing and the eventual death of bulls before an enthusiastic audience are impressionable and more apt to learn that it is acceptable to violently assert power and dominance over vulnerable living creatures, whether these are animals or vulnerable people.

Although not all people involved in animal abuse are violent towards humans, and many people who perpetrate or witness animal abuse do not become violent towards people, the connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence cannot be ignored. Animal abuse is a serious societal concern with important significance for human welfare. It is increasingly clear that a world in which animal abuse goes unchecked is also a less safe world for human beings. Responsible legislators would be wise to consider the mounting evidence of an association between these two forms of violence and abuse.

In conclusion, in light of the established connection between violence towards animals and violence towards humans, we join as scientists, scholars, and human service professionals from around the world and respectfully urge you to support the Popular Legislative Initiative, and ban bullfights.

Respectfully,

Kenneth Shapiro, PhD in Clinical Psychology, Editor, Society and Animals Journal

275 RESEARCH SCIENTISTS, PSYCHOLOGISTS, CRIMINOLOGITS, SCHOLRAS, AND LEGAL AND HUMAN SERVICE PROFESSIONALS ENDORSE THE LETTER. See the list here