Bullfighting: It's illegal to torture animals

Bullfight in Western is staged when there was key cultural event. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Dear Dakatri, I am a cattle farmer in Mukumu. Although I come from a community that practises bullfighting, I  do not support it. I feel for the animals that are kept purely to entertain people. They are often given marijuana before the fights. The worst is what happened last week where a bull used for fighting was killed cruelly after being accused of killing its trainer. I think we need to discuss this matter and abolish this backward tradition.

Mambiri Josiah Mukumu, Kakamega County.

Thanks, Josiah, for the timely question. I could not finish watching the hellish video of the bull being killed by a rowdy group and, worst of all by a lawmaker. What happened to the bull is not only illegal but immoral. Animals are sentient beings – that is why a dog will know its owner, a cow will moo at an erstwhile good caretaker, and so will a cat meow and snore away next to its master. Animals do this because they are special living things much closer to man than crops since they live to give humanity food.

It then follows that animals must be treated well; even machines that help in food processing need good care for optimal output. If we can do this to machines that do not have life, why should we be cruel to living beings?

It is for this reason that animals have laws that protect them. In Kenya since independence, we have had the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1962, which outlaws, among other cruelties, bullfighting – which my brother from Ikolomani is hell-bent on practicing despite it being illegal. In the Act, making animals fight to entertain or for commercial purposes is outlawed. Other cruel acts include beating, kicking, over-loading, torturing, and terrifying an animal, among others.

It has not been easy implementing these laws due to low awareness and our cultural inclinations. Other reasons have been ambiguities in the law itself; for example, how do you measure a load to say an animal is overloaded? This law was reviewed in 2012 to cover all animals and all aspects of animal welfare, as defined by the Four Freedoms of Animals: Freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury, and disease, freedom to express natural behaviour, and freedom from fear and distress. This law stipulates how animals should be transported and slaughtered humanely.

The Reviewed Act is amenable to changing dynamics. Our Constitution requires that animals, both domestic and wild, are taken good care of. The Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Para-Professionals Act of 2011 (a result of the review of the Veterinary Surgeons Act CAP 366) further gives legal basis for treating animals when they fall sick. This further protects animals even under the hands of trained veterinary doctors, and animal health practitioners, and stipulates requirements for one to practice veterinary medicine.

As civilisations grow, taking good care of animals has become a major issue, with consumers wanting to know the origin of animal products to certify that they were treated well on the farm and at slaughter. In one of the developed countries where pet dogs are loved, for example, there was a serious debate about misusing bitches to produce many puppies for pet lovers. Kennels that abused bitches were singled out, and their puppies lost value. Similar animal welfare activists also started similar campaigns against large cattle farms that mistreated animals.

Researchers have shown that societies that treat animals well will also treat fellow human beings well. Being cruel to animals can be a measure of how we are likely to treat fellow human beings. 

[Dr Othieno is a veterinary surgeon and currently the head of communications at FAO-Kenya. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of FAO but his own]

Want to get latest farming tips and videos?
Join Us