10 Year Old Bull Fighter Causing Debate in France

August 8, 2008

He’s a tiny torero, a bullfighter with a baby face. But 10-year-old Michelito has become the symbol of a debate much bigger than himself. French anti-bullfighting campaigners say the boy, who came from Mexico to perform, is risking his life in the ring. Local authorities in southern France canceled two demonstrations where he was set to appear. Other performances have gone ahead, with Michelito – who has big brown eyes and a floppy bowl cut – showered with flowers by fans.

It’s all part of a bigger battle: French animal rights groups vs. bullfighting, which is a tradition in southern France as in neighboring Spain, and which has a small but passionate French following.

For Michelito Lagravere, the passion started young, about as soon as he could walk. Born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and a French bullfighting father, he started playing at being a torero – using a dish towel as a cape – when he was just a tot, his father said.

He was 4 years old the first time he faced off against a month-old calf. Now 10, he has fought about 60 animals to the death, his father said. Videos on the Internet show him in the ring with injured, staggering calves – not to mention Michelito being trampled.

“Am I afraid?” asked his father, Michel Lagravere. “I’m afraid like all fathers are afraid for their children. … It’s like all other sports. It’s more dangerous than playing chess, if that’s considered a sport. But I don’t think it’s more dangerous than horseback riding and riding competitions.”

In Mexico, bullfighting is governed by a network of local regulations. According to rules in Mexico City, the age of bulls is established – most have to be between 3 and 6 years old – while there is no mention of age limits for bullfighters. Younger bullfighters tend to face smaller bulls and calves.

The lack of age limits and trend toward younger bullfighters has drawn young aspirants from abroad to Mexico, including one Spanish bullfighter, Jairo Miguel, who was nearly gored to death last year at age 14 when a 910-pound bull rushed him at top speed and punctured his lung.

Michelito’s career apparently caused little stir until he came to southern France this summer to take part in nonprofessional demonstrations by bullfighting schools.

In France, children are not allowed to become professional bullfighters until age 16, said Andre Viard, president of the National Observatory of Bullfighting Cultures.

Beatrice Brethes, who runs a bullfighting school in France where Michelito performed, said Michelito and other children participating in the demonstrations are paired with smaller animals – calves ranging from 9 months old to a year, and weighing no more than 150 pounds.

She said no bulls have been killed in the children’s demonstrations. While there are no French laws that would prevent a child from fighting an animal to the death or from facing off a grown bull, organizers said they would not let that happen.

Claire Starozinski of the Alliance Anticorrida, meanwhile, has filed legal complaints in towns where Michelito was scheduled to perform. She argued that his shows broke French labor code, which bars children under 16 from “jobs that endanger their lives, health or morality.”

“This boy is a professional in his country,” she said. “He killed his first animal at 6. He already has scars … You don’t teach a child to kill at age 6. The role of a parent is to protect their child. These parents are not protecting their child; they are making him take risks.”

Under pressure, the town of Fontvieille canceled Friday’s show out of fear for the boy. Organizers tried to move it to nearby Arles, but local security officials ruled that the arena was not up to standard.

The assistant mayor of Arles who handles bullfighting, Jean-Marie Egidio, said the city was puzzled by that ruling, which was later overturned. Michelito was performing Thursday in Arles, his last show in France before he heads home to Mexico.

As his father says: “I think he has a really great career ahead of him.”

Article by Angela Doland

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1000s of People Get Drunk On Subways in London in Protest

June 1, 2008

London’s subway system was engulfed by thousands of revelers Saturday night, marking the introduction of an alcohol ban on the mass transit network.

Eyewitnesses have described how some drunken partygoers, often dressed in fancy dress, fought, damaged subway trains and vomited.

Authorities were forced to close six stations on the network, including major transportation hubs at Liverpool Street, Baker Street and Euston.

A spokesman for British Transport Police, which patrols the network, said that police had been told of a large “large amount” of disorder and “multiple instances of trains being damaged”, causing them to be pulled from service, the UK’s Press Association reported, adding: “This was an unfortunate end to what should have been a fun event.” There were reports of at least 17 arrests.

Much of the disorder concentrated on the Circle Line, which encircles the center of the city.

Many reports say that the night had begun good-naturedly.

Web programmer, David Mudkips, 25, from east London, told PA that the event was “Like rush hour but fun. There were people’s sweaty armpits in my face but I didn’t care because I was drinking.”

Student Frankie Abbott, 21, also from east London, said earlier in the evening: “It might be fun to do the whole night but I think it’s going to get a bit messy. There are guys drinking from funnels already.”

Sailor Peter Moore, 35, from Brighton on the southern English coast, told the agency his night was “Drunken, I just downed a can of beer in 10 seconds. It’s sweaty on there but I’m going round and round until I vomit.”

As the evening progressed the situation deteriorated.

Photographer Desmond Fitzgerald, 48, from south London, told PA that by 11pm at Gloucester Road subway station he was afraid someone might slip onto the tracks due to the amount of spilt alcohol on the platform.

“At first the atmosphere was happy but anarchic, defiant,” he said, with people wearing hats and having a good time.

As the journey progressed, more heavily drunk people joined the train, he added.

“Then a fight broke out between about five people, but because we were so tightly packed in it soon spread throughout the carriage and I had to struggle to escape to the next one,” he told PA.

“The atmosphere had really changed by this point. People were ripping off adverts and maps and being sick all over the place.

“When it pulled in to Embankment people fell out and carried on fighting on the platform. Thankfully police were there, and they handled it very well.”

Many of those gathered had learnt of the party on social networking Web sites, through groups with names such as “Circle Line Party – Last day of drinking on the tube”, which had 850-plus members listed by Saturday lunchtime, and “Party/Flashmob on the Underground”, with 1,300-plus names listed.

The anti-drinking strategy was introduced by newly elected London mayor Boris Johnson. He said before the party occurred: “I’m determined to improve the safety and security of public transport in London and create a better environment for the millions of Londoners who rely on it. The ban has the full support of the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police.

“I firmly believe that banning the drinking of alcohol on London’s public transport will create a better traveling environment for all Londoners and that if we drive out antisocial behavior and so called minor crime then we will be able to get a firm grip on more serious crime.”
But Bob Crow, General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union of which many subway staff are members, countered that the ban put workers at greater risk of of attack, reported PA, saying it was “half-baked.”

This story was originally found @CNN.com

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