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Animal rights group continues investigation of Thornton bullfight

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Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2009 10:00 pm

The animal rights group that claims bullfighters in Thornton violated state law by using three-inch nails to anger bulls in the ring is continuing its investigation in several counties before approaching law enforcement agencies, according to an attorney for the organization.

A humane officer for Animal Cruelty Investigations attended bullfights in the Los Angeles County community of Artesia on May 23 and then in Thornton on May 29, attempting to prove that bullfighters illegally used nails in what are termed "bloodless bullfights," ACI attorney David Castleman said.

In the bullfights, participants try to attach poles tipped with Velcro to a Velcro pad secured to the bull's back. ACI claims nails had been inserted in the tips of the poles and beneath the Velcro pad on the bull.

San Joaquin County Sheriff's spokesman Les Garcia said there is no local investigation at this time because ACI hasn't provided any photographs, film or actual bullfighting poles with nails to back up its allegations.

That's because the humane officer, identified by Los Angeles County court records as Andrew J. Stewart, will continue to attend bullfights in California to collect evidence, Castleman said.

The attorney said he hopes to coordinate future animal cruelty charges in what he described as an "overarching agency," because the case will involve alleged incidents in several counties.

ACI spokeswoman Jane Garrison said earlier this week that her organization's goal is to eliminate bullfighting in California, even if it's the so-called "bloodless bullfighting."

Animal Cruelty Investigations at a glance

Animal Cruelty Investigations is a nonprofit organization under the auspices of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals and the State Humane Association of California.

The state association isn't an official government organization, but several cities, counties and other groups are members, including San Joaquin and Sacramento county Animal Control and Stockton police. The cities of Lodi and Galt are not members.

Andrew J. Stewart, a humane officer for Animal Cruelty Investigations, was reappointed as a Level 2 officer on Feb. 28 by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza. According to the California Corporations Code, a Level 2 officer can exercise peace officer powers in animal cruelty cases, but he cannot possess a gun.

Qualifications include completing 40 hours of continuing education training every three years.

Officers may serve only in the county in which he or she is appointed, according to the Corporations Code. An officer may serve temporarily in another county if the humane officer gives notice requesting consent to the sheriff of the county in which he or she intends to serve and acquires consent from the sheriff.

Another bullfight coming to Thornton

The Stockton Portuguese Club will host a bullfight in connection with its Holy Ghost Festival at 6:30 p.m. June 12 at Praca Sao Joao arena on North Sacramento Boulevard, just behind the Portuguese community and Mater Ecclesiae Catholic Church.

News-Sentinel staff

Meanwhile, questions have risen in Thornton and Lodi whether Stewart was authorized to act as an animal rights officer outside of Los Angeles, the county in which he was appointed in Superior Court.

The California Corporations Code says that humane officers may only operate in their home county unless the sheriff in another county, such as San Joaquin, gives permission.

Garcia, the San Joaquin County spokesman, said that Stewart talked to deputies once he arrived in Thornton and explained what he was doing at the bullfight, which was part of a week-long Elk Grove Portuguese festival.

The sheriff's department assigned extra deputies to Thornton because of the large crowd at the bullfight. Garcia emphasized; however, that the deputies weren't assigned specifically to the bullfight, but to the Thornton community in general.

Between fights last week, Stewart, wearing a thick flannel shirt, blue jeans and a black baseball cap worn backwards, entered the ring with his accusations against the matadors. It was between shows. One bull had just left the arena, and the next one hadn't entered yet, according to Sam Tunnell, of Acampo, who said he witnessed the incident.

"He was halfway across the arena, on his way out, when he pulled his badge out of the pocket of the flannel shirt he was wearing," Tunnell said.

Two men, Cesar Rocha, 38, of Gustine, and Darren Nunes, 23, of Los Banos, were arrested on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an officer and are due in court on June 15. Tunnell and other witnesses said that Nunes confronted Stewart, and Rocha became involved in a verbal dispute with the humane officer.

Castleman said that Stewart was not using any peace officer powers. All he was doing was investigating and collecting information, which he will report to law enforcement, Castleman said.

Stewart reportedly attended a bullfight Monday in the small Merced County community of Stevinson, and he will attend others, the attorney said.

The Stockton Portuguese Society will host a bullfight in Thornton on June 12, and others are scheduled on June 8 and 15 in Stevinson, June 19 in Tracy, June 20 in Chowchilla and July 20 in Gustine.

Thornton hosts its own bullfights each October during its Our Lady of Fatima Festival.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 11:23 pm on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Bullfighting is NOT a portuguese tradition; it's a tradition among some Portuguese, Spanish and French people which is a quite different matter. This industry is in decline for lack of public and is trying desperately to create new audiences, while promoting a strong lobbying with politics to grab public money. This is a bloody business which has to be banned urgently. I thank ACI for the courage to stop cruelty for profit in the name of tradition.

  • posted at 2:40 pm on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    I had the displeasure of living close to the church the bullfights were held behind. Folks from that church festival hopped my fence, helped themselves to my metered water, litter was scattered everywhere, fights breaking out til dawn, and the animals being mistreated. Do you suppose God approves. I tried to ask the Priest to control his congregation, but he laughed. Time to shut down this out of control melee.

  • posted at 12:27 pm on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Slather it all in Honey and Sugar! Ahh.. if only these poor beasts could talk. I think they would give you a Kiss, redonk.

  • posted at 8:40 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    The bull as a rule ends up at In and Out Burger. I always root for the bull, but alas, we both loose.

  • posted at 5:39 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Velcos nailed on??? Why not use Duct tape & pull the Hairs off the Bull???Oh thats cruelty!!!Change to non violent way of Living!!!

  • posted at 5:38 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    JB...I told by a portuguese individual at the bullfight on the 29th that when they were in Portugal and attended a bullfight last year, they performed the fight, "spanish" style and killed the bull....everyone booed and left the arena in disgust. Not all people come to watch an animal be tortured. In the old country the bull can be killed and slaughtered (humanely) out of the crowds view. Then the meat is used to feed all of those hundreds who attend for FREE! The bull is not often killed in the ring-that is SPANISH bullfighting.

  • posted at 5:38 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Most people that do not know what they are talking about say the same exact thing that JBHIKER says. The portuguese treat these bulls better then most people treat their pets. The animals perfom only once in their lives for about 15 minutes then go to the pasture or sent to the beef company. Now rodeo bulls (which are uses for entertainment) perform week after week, and year after year, yet the ACI will not dare attack them would they. Or how about calf roping. Does a calf get their neck snapped when running at 25 mph then stop on a dime when the rope finally get tight. The american rodeo is part of the american culture and the bullfights are part of the portuguese culture. Yet the portuguese culture use an animal once, ONLY ONCE in their whole life. People crack me up because they cant see the forrest from the trees.

  • posted at 5:34 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    JBhiker..the bull isn't fed to anyone because it is not killed in bloodless bullfights or any other bullfights in California/US. If this was happening PETA would have put a stop to this in 1971 when the first bloodless bullfight took place in Thornton. Give it a rest. I respect your opinion but I sure as heck don't agree with it.

  • posted at 5:16 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    OH. and JB. this is the beauty. if you dont like our bullfights. DONT GO. thats all there is to it.

  • posted at 5:13 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Don't think ACI has a hidden agenda? Frank Allen is listed as a contact or prominent figure in their organization. He is also listed as an "Investigator" for a group that refers to itself as "animal liberation front". Sound like a mainstream organization to you?http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Practical/FactoryFarm/Slaughter/SlaughterhouseAbuse.htm

  • posted at 5:13 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Andrew J. Stewart, however, takes it upon himself to be a "hero" i guess? and Mr. Nunes did what he was trained to do in the US Military (which allows the ACI to act as they do) and subdued this UNIDENTIFIED man. for all we knew he could have been a terrorist. All these charges are insane. and I hope we can keep our traditions alive.

  • posted at 5:13 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    redonkulous, Here is a quote about Portuguese-Style bullfighting. So after teasing the bull, the Bull has a chance to live a normal life?!? Yeah.. Riiiiiiiight."In Portuguese Style bullfighting, the bull is not killed in the ring and, at the end of the corrida, leading oxen are let into the arena and two campinos on foot herd the bull along them back to its pen. The bull is usually killed, away from the audience's sight, by a professional butcher. It can happen that some bulls, after an exceptional performance, are healed, released to pasture until their end days and used for breeding."Great Heritage!! Such a proud tradition! Hooray for the Butcher!

  • posted at 5:11 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    it is really awesome to see a community come together to protect their heritage. but as a young Portuguese person I have to say it is a little scary to think these ACI people have nothing better to do with their lives than to come and ruin our traditions. I have been going to bull fights for all my life and more times than not it has been the person that gets hurt, not the bull. There are far more important things these people can be worried about than these bulls. There are animals getting killed in shelters. and kids getting killed at the hands of their parents/guardians. as for the 2 arrested men. what a load of rubbish. Mr. Nunes did not attach this guy that jumped into the arena. If he would have let someone involved in the bullfight know who he was and what he wanted, im sure it would have been a much more peaceful event. Andrew J. Stewart,

  • posted at 5:04 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    redonkulous, I am not a vegetarian - but I don't see the purpose of teasing anyone or anything before killing it. Are you saying the "Holy Bull" does not feed anyone after it is teased mercilessly by these brave men?Both sides of my family have farms and I have raised cattle & horses (etc.) most of my life. I always give the animals the respect God intended. My Grandad would kick our A$$ if we teased or mistreated ANY animal on our farm or anywhere else for that matter. I eventually learned this: "What goes around comes around!". I will admit that stomach turning events such as yours has seriously damaged my desire to eat beef.

  • posted at 5:03 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    So do we get to eat the bull afterwards? Do I have to bring my own horseradish? What kind of wine goes good with bull?

  • posted at 3:30 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Yep, sure do.....all but one usually result in death! Unless you are in Spain, the bull isn't killed after a fight. Question to jbhiker....are you a vegitarian?

  • posted at 2:55 am on Fri, Jun 5, 2009.


    Rooster fighting, Bull fighting, Dog fighting, Gang Fighting, Domestic Violence Galore! Do these people have no respect for anything? Am I the only one who sees a pattern here?



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