Shiloh Heimman, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering, applied for the USF Federal Credit Union’s (FCU) “Are You the Best Bull?” promotional competition for “the awesome prize,” she said – a trip to Pamplona, Spain, to participate in the famed Running of the Bulls.
Yet the contest recently came under fire from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for promoting the “cruel treatment” of the bulls. During the annual Pamplona run, bulls are released in a city street and run to a bullring where they are killed in bullfighting events.
The competition, which asked participants to upload videos no longer than 60 seconds to YouTube about creative ways they are financially savvy in the current economy, last month offered a grand prize of sending the winner to Pamplona or a cash prize of equal monetary value.
When Senior Special Project Coordinator and PETA spokeswoman Alicia Woempner, at PETA’s headquarters in Virginia, received “several” complaints from USF students and alumni, she said she wrote a letter to the credit union’s CEO Richard Skaggs to request he stop promoting animal cruelty, an aspect of bull racing that Woempner said few know of.
“Most people are horrified to learn that the bulls are tortured to death in the rings,” she said. “Once most people learn about this cruelty, they no longer support this.”
Skaggs, who responded promptly to Woempner’s letter, said animal cruelty would be taken into account when creating future promotions.
“We certainly agree we will look at the structure of any future promotion that we have, but to win a prize as a trip or a cash alternative will more than likely be part of the promotion,” he said. “The competition has always allowed for them to choose either a trip to Spain or accept the monetary value of the trip to Spain in lieu of going to Spain. We want to still present both options to the individual and allow them to choose in terms of the winning.”
Woempner said the credit union’s swift response to the situation was one that should be praised.
“We commend the credit union for their compassionate decision to end this promotion once they learned about the cruelty involved,” she said. “(Skaggs) responded very quickly and compassionately to the letter. He said he was simply unaware of the cruelty involved in this promotion.”
Heimann, who first heard of the contest through Bull Market, uploaded a 57-second video to the FCU’s Facebook page in which she spoke of the ways she saves money through carpooling and vintage shopping.
Skaggs said the intent of the competition was not to reward the winner with the opportunity to watch bullfights, but rather to stimulate creativity in regards to financial literacy.
“The promotion was never for the Running of the Bulls,” he said. “The promotion was built around submitting YouTube videos to share what people did (that was) creative during the economic downturn. The award was never presented to be the Running of the Bulls, it was only a reference that we were trying to tie in with USF Bulls. In the itinerary if they do choose to visit (the bull racing event), they do not have to. It’s up to the individual’s discretion.”
However, Skaggs said Pamplona was chosen as the trip destination because of the Running of the Bulls.
The grand prize winner, as well as the second and third place winner, of the competition will be notified this week. Skaggs said the equal monetary compensation value of the grand prize has yet to be determined, as hotel costs in Spain are still being explored, but the second place winner will receive $500 and the third place winner will receive $200. Skaggs said the winners have already been selected by judges.
Heimann said if she were to win the competition, the option of accepting an equal monetary value would “definitely not” be something she would choose.
“I would definitely pick the trip to Spain,” she said. “Money just doesn’t have anything culturally.”