After his triumphant return to the bullring less than a fortnight ago, the Salford matador Frank Evans was looking forward to a hectic spell in Britain promoting his autobiography chronicling four decades of facing death in the afternoon.
But his literary ambitions were stymied yesterday when Waterstone’s cancelled planned signing sessions in Liverpool and Manchester after receiving threats from animal rights protesters.
Letters sent to the book chain warned that Mr Evans’s book The Last British Bullfighter would “glamorise the cruel, violent world of bullfighting.”
The seasoned bullfighter said the company’s staff also received threats because of his planned appearances.
Mr Evans yesterday focussed his wrath on the anti-taurine campaigners who’ve been challenging him for decades. “Forty years ago I used to reason with them, but I don’t bother now, they are unreasonable. I’ve got no time for them. I’ve received hate mail, letter bombs. They are sinister, they invent things, like putting Vaseline in bulls’ eyes, or loading their backs with sandbags before they enter the ring. Ridiculous things that would be punished in Spain as crimes,” Evans told The Independent yesterday. “At the end of the day, if anyone tampered with a bull I’d go straight to the police.”
Mr Evans was due to attend the book signings at Waterstone’s in Liverpool and Manchester on 16 September, with tickets costing £3.
A spokesman for Waterstone’s refused to be drawn on whether threats had been received by employees but said that a decision to cancel the two Last British Bullfighter events had been taken “in the best interests of our customers and staff.” A statement added that no further events were planned and refunds woudl be made.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), the Born Free Foundation and the League Against Cruel Sports were among the animal rights groups which wrote to Waterstone’s.
In a statement, it said: “This isn’t about threats, real or imagined. It’s about real danger to real animals who are really and truly tormented, goaded, injured and killed for a laugh or to make this man feel important.”
Peta spokeswoman Poorva Joshipura had contacted the company’s events organiser saying bullfighting was “a cruel, violent spectacle that is illegal in the UK”.
On hearing the decision to cancel the signings, she said: “Bravo to Waterstone’s for distancing itself from the sadistic cruelty and gore of bullfighting.
“There is nothing brave or admirable about anyone who participates in or pays to watch a violent spectacle in which the bull always loses.”
Mr Evans has received several death threats from animal activists before, and a post office intercepted a letter bomb with his name on it several years ago, he added.
Just over a week ago, the 67-year-old grandfather of five was glowing with the achievement of dispatching two half-ton bulls in his comeback fight, for which he was awarded two ears and received the accolade of being borne shoulder high through the main gate of Benalmadena’s bullring on the Costa del Sol.
Mr Evans had to retire from the ring four years ago following a quadruple heart bypass and a replacement knee operation. With his career relaunched, he now hopes to take on four or five bulls a season. His next fight is in Granada next month.
“It was quite an ordeal to fight again after four years away from bullfighting, he said. “I’m delighted to be back as an active matador.” He added: “It’s not just getting into the ring and wearing a suit of lights that makes me happy. It’s the daily training, visiting the ranches, talking to the managers, interacting with the profession.”
But he is realistic about his prospects. “I’m back, but not on the scale of when I was younger. I feel as good as you can be at 67. I’m athletic and I’ve trained all my life, and I don’t feel I’ve deteriorated physically. But this isn’t going on for ever. I’ve got to be careful not to make a fool of myself. A matador should look alert and capable in the ring. The day I look my age and everyone’s frightened I’ll suffer some disaster, then I’ll stop.”
He added: “With all the publicity the protesters are giving me, it’ll probably boost sales of my book.”