BRASILIA – About 3,000 cowboys and cowgirls on horseback rode Tuesday into Brasilia’s Esplanade of the Ministries, which connects all of the government buildings in the Brazilian capital, to protest a Supreme Court ruling banning traditional bullfighting festivals.
The protest tied up traffic for an hour in downtown Brasilia, where demonstrators created a festive atmosphere and no incidents were reported.
The demonstrators rode into the capital to let officials know that they oppose the ban on the “vaquejada” festivals.
The festivals, which date back to the 17th century, feature a competition in which a pair of mounted cowboys try to pull down a bull by the tail in an attempt to take it down within an enclosed area.
Vaquejadas are popular in northeastern Brazil, but the Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 6 that the competitions were illegal because the animals were subjected to cruelty.
Supporters of the vaquejadas gathered at the Brasilia Cathedral, located on one end of the Esplanade of the Ministries, and then headed toward Congress, where they demanded that lawmakers defend the traditional festivals.
The festivals provide jobs for about 70,000 people across Brazil and have an economic impact of about 50 million reais (around $15.5 million) in the regions where they are most popular.
The protest was organized by the Brazilian Cowboys Association, or ABVAQ, which released a statement defending the handling of bulls in the competitions and assuring the public that the animals are well cared for because “there is no festival without them.”
The National Animal Protection Forum, for its part, said in a statement that the festivals promote the “suffering” of animals.