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Supreme Court Rules for Animal Rights Over Cultural Tradition

Supreme Court Rules for Animal Rights Over Cultural Tradition

Among the many longstanding traditions of Brazilian culture is a bullfighting practice that recalls the country’s cowboy history. Vaquejada is a rodeo sport that involves cowboys on horseback chasing a bull in an arena. The cowboys attempt to bring the bull to the ground by pulling on its tail. Vaquejada has endured as a Brazilian tradition for centuries, but the competition has finally encountered a foe that it could not vanquish: the Brazilian Supreme Court. The high court has ruled that vaquejada goes against animal protections enshrined in the constitution.

The legal wrangling surrounding vaquejada pit cultural practices against advocates for animal rights. While Brazil’s constitution prohibits cruelty to animals, it also protects cultural practices, explains the Wall Street Journal. Legal arguments reached the Supreme Court after the attorney general of the state of Ceará declared that the practice of vaquejada violates the prohibition of animal cruelty. In a close 6-5 vote, the justices ruled that the vaquejada tradition could not be justified because the practice inflicts intentional harm on cattle. Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia cast the deciding vote.

There is legal precedent in Brazil for favoring animal rights over cultural tradition. The Journal notes that the high court outlawed farra do boi, which involves celebrating Easter by beating a bull to death with sticks and stones. The practice was popular in the coastal regions of southern Brazil. The Supreme Court has also prohibited cockfighting.

Notwithstanding the ruling, vaquejada supporters have not finished showing their support for the sport. Cowboys and cowgirls have gathered by the thousands at government buildings in Brazil’s capital to protest the decision, according to The Associated Press.

While the court’s string of decisions pitting cultural practices against animal rights has weighed in the animals’ favor, the Journal notes that it will not be easy to persuade vaquejada supporters to give up a practice that many, particularly in rural areas, see as a key part of their identity. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it falls to local officials to enforce the law.