Ban on Fights and Staged Animal Conflicts
Article 4 of the Animal Protection Act states:
(2) It is prohibited to:
3. increase aggressiveness of animals through selection or other methods,
4. incite animals against another animals or humans or train them to be aggressive, except when training working dogs and hunting dogs under the supervision of qualified persons,
5. train animals to fight, organise animal fights, with the exception of traditional bull fighting, or participate in such fights, attend or advertise them and organise and participate in betting in relation to such fights,
Animal Friends suggests the following text, i.e. alteration of Article 4, paragraph 2, item 5:
(2) It is prohibited to:
5. train animals to fight, organize animal fights, including dog fights, rooster, bull, bear and all other animal fights, or participate in such fights, attend of advertise them and organize and participate in betting in relation to such fights,
Explanation: Current Animal Protection Act prohibits animal fights "except traditional bull competition" (Article 4, paragraph 2, item 5) because of the supposed tradition of these fights in a few places in Croatia. The exception from other animal fights was passed through an amendment immediately before adopting the Animal Protection Act in 2006, with the desire to regulate so called "bikijade" (bull fights) in Dalmatia and Dalmatinska zagora.
Bikijade are a part of large gathering of people in the above mentioned regions, and they are organized as bull fights, where the natural instinct of animals is used in order to make them attack and poke each other. During bull fights certain provisions of the Animal Protection Act are being violated, regarding encouraging animals to be aggressive and inciting them as well as other ways of mistreating animals (causing them fear, stress, suffering, pain, wounds), as well as organizing and participating in betting. Besides the stress and fear that animals experience immediately and during fights, owners often transport animals a long way in order to participate in the fights, which causes them to violate subordinate legislation relating to transportation of animals without control. Besides, dog fighting DVDs are often sold at "bikijade"; even though they are illegal, the organizers of "bikijade" are often involved in non-transparent businesses and financial malfeasance, and a number of safety, sanitary and veterinary laws are also being violated.
The existing provision that prohibits to "train animals to fight, organize animal fights, with the exception of traditional bull fighting" already allows law violation because the bull fights cannot be called competition nor tradition. It is not clear what kind of bull competition so called "bikijade" are, where animals are used to fight each other. Therefore the bull fights are already prohibited, considering the indeterminacy of the definition of "competition" in the legislation.
Bull fights started to be intensely organized here in mid 1990s, which makes them illegal because there is no tradition in organizing bull fights. They are also held, for example, also in Vrbovec, which has nothing to do with attempts to show bull fighting as traditional, considering the bulls are bred in Dalmatinska zagora. It all points to the conclusion that these events are organized illegally, which is why it is necessary to change and correct the current legislation.
Tradition is cultural heritage that gets passed on from generation to generation, and it implies continuity from the past. They are not events that are based on an event in the past. Bull fighting equally cannot be cultural heritage because that kind of heritage assumes past generations' legacy that is carefully looked after in the present so that it can be passed on as a heirloom for the good of the future generations.
Ethnologists agree that "bikijade" might be a tradition in some parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but not Dalmatia and Dalmatian zagora because there is a lack of documentation confirming this. They cite the value in keeping various forms of traditional heritage that exists around "bikijade" themselves. This is primarily preparation of traditional dishes, performing various traditional musical expressions (dance, local types of singing such as ganga, rera, ojkavica, playing local instruments diple and gusle - fiddle) from different areas, performing various traditional games, sale of hand made articles by traditional crafts and so on. Therefore even the experts confirm that it is important to preserve traditional heritage and not "bikijade" which do not even belong to the tradition.
Traditional heritage and cultural values of Dalmatia and Dalmatinska zagora could be successfully promoted to tourists as social gatherings could be organized by evolving animal conflict into bull exhibitions, which would suit the definition "bull competition" from the Animal Protection Act because the physical appearance and animal posture would be valued, and gatherings and parties would still be held, cultivation of an indigenous breed would be promoted, the winners would get awards, and it would all be without any danger to animals and people.
The desire to mythologize history and to bring in newly composed tradition to village celebrations is justified if it involves equal participants of some custom, who willingly participate in it. Animals should not represent the means of letting off steam or the means to generate income under the excuse of keeping with tradition by a certain group of interested people. The role of the legislator is to protect animals, and not to subjectively watch the fun and earnings of the individual at the expense of animals.
Considering that "bikijada" is not even registered as Croatian cultural heritage (i.e. non-material cultural heritage), the current definition of the Law as "traditional bull fighting" hasn't got a leg to stand on, nor is it legally valid. Only if this happens could we discuss possible inclusion, but even then the Animal Protection Act should side with animal protection and stop encouragement and organizing of any animal conflicts.
Even if bull fights were a tradition, they should be banned because tradition needs to change, (i.e. adapt to the ethical reaches of modern times). Also, the Animal Protection Act should be applied to the entire country, with no exceptions, and with this provision the concept of tradition in order to legalize and promote violence towards other animals as cultural heritage is being misused.
The proposal of the Association for this change in Animal Protection Act is from year 2012.