Steer clear of bullfights, World Cup fans warned

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The Independent Online
BULLFIGHTS organised to coincide with the World Cup in France should be boycotted by English football fans, animal rights campaigners said yesterday.

Thousands of tourists are expected to attend the shows in towns just a few hours along the coast from England's opening-group matches in Marseilles and Toulouse.

But the World Society for the Protection of Animals has launched a billboard-poster campaign across London urging fans to stay away from the fights.

Jonathan Pearce, spokesman for the WSPA, said that organisers were taking advantage of the World Cup to stage events of appalling cruelty to animals.

At least 14 bullfights have been arranged during the World Cup in France, with more than 80 bulls due to be slaughtered, according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The shows form part of the 100 events involving 600 animals scheduled to take place in towns in the south of France, including Nimes and Bordeaux.

One man who definitely won't be going is Tony Banks, the Sports Minister ... nor will he be cheering England on at the football matches. The MP for West Ham has decided to give up what he described as the "chance of a lifetime" in order to protest against ticket allocation to English fans.

Speaking at the Football Supporters' Association's annual conference in Wolverhampton, Mr Banks told more than 200 members that he would not be going to France but would instead watch England's matches at big screen venues with other disgruntled supporters. He said: "If you haven't got a ticket you shouldn't travel, because there will be problems. I have tickets, but I am not going to go - in protest at the way the system operates."

The allocation of tickets to English supporters for their country's opening three matches in Marseilles, Toulouse, and Nantes rose from just 10,000 to 15,000 after protests from the Football Association earlier this year.

But Mr Banks, who recently criticised widespread above-inflation hikes in soccer season-ticket prices, said that the amount was still "woefully inadequate". He also used his 30- minute slot to back calls for the introduction of a voluntary regulatory body to protect the interests of supporters.

Mr Banks said: "I am hoping that those that run football - the chairmen of the clubs, the FA, the Premier League - are listening to what is being said by me and by others - that they have got to do something because if they don't do something, we will have to do something for them."

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