With a growing movement towards animal rights, Farra Do Boi (translated into Festival of the Oxen) held in Brazil annually has come under the spotlight yet not enough has been done to stop this month’s Festival from taking place.
Over a two day period, Farra Do Boi sees the brutal torture of oxen, including gouging out its eyes or cutting off its tail. The Festival was previously celebrated as a religious Easter holiday, with the oxen said to represent Judas or the devil itself. More than 30 communities throughout the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina commemorate weddings, birthdays or other special occasions with this ritual while other states denounce it.
According to animal right groups, Farra Do Boi is a centuries-old festival believed to have been brought to Brazil by Azorean immigrants between 1748 and 1756 . Originally, the ox was fattened, the binge was made, and then the animal was sacrificed to serve as food. Over time, the practice has changed.
Very little inside information is available about the Festival – bar recounts on social media – but groups who witnessed the brutal slaughter described how the ox is confined and starved for days. To increase frenzy food and water are placed within sight but out of reach. The Festival begins when drunken villagers release the oxen and chase, punch, kick, and attack the animals with sticks, knives, whips, stones, bamboo lances, ropes, and anything else they can get their hands on. The torture escalates as the festival drags on. Eyes are rubbed with hot pepper and then gouged out; limbs are broken and tails are snapped and hacked off; some are doused with gasoline and set aflame. Those animals who are able to escape from the masses, usually run towards the sea where they ultimately drown. Any oxen who survive the torment are eventually killed and their flesh divided among the participants.
Two decades ago, on June 3, 1997, after much pressure by animal rights organisations, the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil outlawed Farra do Boi. The following year, the Law of Environmental Crimes was passed, which began to punish with up to a year in prison who practices, collaborates, or in the case of authorities, omit to prevent acts of cruelty against animals. With the ban, many awareness campaigns were initiated by various animal protection entities, whether local, regional, national or even international. The campaigns generated media interviews and debates, meetings with the authorities and a rise of awareness across social media platforms, with messages that spread the notion that cruelty to animals is unacceptable at any other time of year. There was great support from the local media and the public as a whole. Although a gradual decrease in the number of events was noticed, Santa Catarina officials have failed, year after year, to enforce this ban, and the cruel Farra do Boi events continue to this day.
They only change that has been made is to the name in an apparent attempt to circumvent the law banning Farra do Boi. This horrific torture is now called Brincadeira do Boi, which translates to Ox Games. The Honorable Luiz Henrique da Silveira, the governor of Santa Catarina, as well as the Brazilian Embassy, have refused to order municipal authorities to stop this insanity. Many have taken to social media condemning the Festival and refusing to travel to Brazil, particularly to Santa Caterina, until the Festival is banned.
Animal rights organisation PETA, says they will stop at nothing to have this Festival end once and for all. So far PETA has made strides in ending several other animal cruelty festivals across the globe. Recently Peta celebrated the ban of Kots Kaal Pato, or “Strangle the Duck,” festival in Citilcum, a small town near Izamal, Yucatán. During this Festival animals were viciously tortured and killed for the enjoyment of participants and attendees. Government finally banned this horrific spectacle and it won’t be taking place this year.