American Running of the Bulls Not Much of a Thrill (Op-Ed)
A matador gets a bull's attention by waving his muleta.
Credit: Bull Fighter via Shutterstock

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed first appeared on the blog A Humane Nation, where it ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

A decade ago, I was on-site as an observer for the first American "Running of the Bulls" in a small town outside of Las Vegas. Despite the hype from the promoter — who said he'd be recreating the drama and danger of the Pamplona, Spain, event where bulls run down the cobblestone streets and head into a fighting arena — the American spectacle was an incredible snooze.

The promoters of the Nevada event released cattle from a pen. The animals trotted or walked down a dirt track as attention- and thrill-starved runners tried to dash in front of them to incite them. It was an embarrassment to all, the bulls comporting themselves with more dignity and smarts than the people.

South Park got it just right when it broadcast this piece on the American version of the running of the bulls.

That said, if the event gets too boring, the promoters of bull running events planned for this year might try to increase the risk quotient, and that means they may harass or incite the animals in order to fabricate more drama.

The HSUS wants to anticipate that kind of escalation, and that's why we wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack — who in his official capacity enforces the standards of the Animal Welfare Act — about the concerns.

The act requires that anyone hosting an animal exhibition for compensation or entertainment is required to obtain a USDA license. Failure to do so can lead to fines of up to $10,000.

By all accounts, it does not appear that the promoters of this year's run have secured the necessary licenses — and their event is unlikely to be in compliance with federal law in any event, since they do not appear to be following the Animal Welfare Act regulations concerning public safety. The first event is slated for the Richmond area on August 24th.

I can understand thrill-seeking. But this event is absurd. For thrill seekers, there are limitless opportunities, from rock climbing to bungee jumping to deep sea diving to skiing to triathlons to a variety of water sports.

Whereas the Spanish event takes place on narrow city streets and involves a rougher type of bull, the proposed events will take place on circular race tracks in an open field with a dirt surface. I expect it will be about as entertaining as people charging into a cow pasture.

But whether it's boring or exciting, it requires licensing from the USDA. We recommend that sensible people stay away.

Note: If you live in Virginia, you can take action against the bull run scheduled for this Saturday, August 24th.

Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was Butter-Cow Prank Does Nothing to Help the Cause of Animals. This article was adapted from "Walking" of the Bulls, which first appeared on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.