Opposition to Bay Area bull-run event growing 

click to enlarge Great Bull Run
  • Gary Cameron/REUTERS file photo
  • A man lies unconscious after being run over by bulls at a Great Bull Run event in Virginia on Aug. 24. Organizers are seeking a local venue between “San Jose and Sacramento.”
San Francisco’s animal-rights watchdogs are seeing red over an event styled after the traditional running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

The Great Bull Run is a tour in the U.S. that kicked off Aug. 24 in Petersburg, Va. Some 12,000 people attended as spectators and bull runners, with many dressed in costume. One man suffered injuries after being trampled and required hospital treatment, according to media reports.

But now with a June 21 event “coming to the San Francisco area,” The City’s Animal Control and Welfare Commission passed a resolution last week condemning it and, if it does occur as planned, requesting no use of San Francisco’s name in promotional materials.

Rob Dickens, who heads The Great Bull Run LLC, said that for the Northern California event they are exploring “venues located between San Jose and Sacramento, though not in either of those cities” and not in San Francisco.

He added that, “The commission’s demand that we refrain from mentioning the word ‘San Francisco’ in any materials is a blatant violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression.”

Commissioner Russell Tenofsky, who led the resolution effort, said while the event will not take place in San Francisco, “I still think it’s something that the commission and the [Board of Supervisors] need to speak out against.”

He said the event is “just completely and inherently cruel and obviously not safe both for people and the animals.” The Humane Society of the United States also has been critical and attempted to shut down the events.

Organizers have defended the event and its treatment of the bulls. They say there is a veterinarian on-site monitoring the health and treatment of the animals.

A statement on the event’s website says, “Unlike the running of the bulls in Spain, we don’t kill the bulls in a bullfight, nor do we abuse them IN ANY WAY. We don’t hit them, shock them or deprive them of food, water, light or sleep. In fact, we’ve taken numerous measures to ensure our bulls remain safe and healthy at all times.”

Dickens called opposition to the events “a very small minority,” noting that a protest outside the Virginia event involving PETA and the Humane Society totaled 12 people. The Virginia animal-rights group Richmond Friends of Animals also had a small presence at the protest.

Tenofsky said he invited the organizers to speak to the commission during its Sept. 19 meeting, but they declined. He read an email he said was from Dickens in which the event co-founder said he could not attend the meeting, but that “our NorCal event will not be held within the San Francisco jurisdiction so any resolutions passed at the meeting would be moot.”

Dickens has a point. At best, what such policy statements can do is build political pressure. An online petition on Change.org posted by an animal advocate calling on the mayors of Bay Area cities to stop the event from taking place had gathered more than 250 signatures as of Tuesday.

The next event is scheduled for Oct. 10 at the Georgia International Horse Park in Atlanta.

“Grab life by the horns and experience the rush of a lifetime as you sprint down a quarter-mile track with up to twenty-four 1,200-pound bulls hot on your heels,” the advertisement says. It costs $60 to run with the bulls or $10 to be a spectator.

The Great Bull Run

The tour is scheduled to hit 10 parts of the country in the next 11 months. Only the Northern California stop has yet to secure a venue.

Atlanta, Oct. 19

Houston, Dec. 7

Florida, Feb. 1

Southern California, March 8

Dallas, April 5

Twin Cities, Minn., May 10

Philadelphia, June 7

Northern California, June 21

Chicago, July 12

Petersburg, Va. Aug. 23

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