CARSON — The theme for the 98th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1 is "A World of Wonders," but Jerye Mooney of Carson doesn't see anything wonderful about her city's float.
The float, entitled "Toreadors," features three costumed matadors swirling capes while standing in a bed of flowers. It was designed to highlight the majesty, beauty and grace of bullfighters in their costumes as a tribute to the culture and customs of many Hispanic countries, the float designer said.
But to Mooney, a 10-year resident of Carson and a self-proclaimed animal-rights activist, there is nothing beautiful about bullfighting, and she says the design is inappropriate for the parade.
"Since when is cruelty to animals a festive occasion?" Mooney, 39, asked in an interview recently. "Bullfighting is illegal in this country. If they are going to have something illegal, they might as well have the flower bed full of marijuana."
A city spokesman and the float designer denied that the $50,000 float is intended to glorify bullfighting, pointing out that there is not even a bull on the float. They said the colorful costumes and swirling capes are what is featured.
"(Mooney's) kind of logic indicates that the mind of someone saying that is as sick as what they are saying," said the designer, Bill Lofthouse, vice president of C. E. Bent & Son of Pasadena, the parade's largest float builder.
Too Late to Change
Mooney acknowledged that it is too late to change the design of the float--the frame has already been constructed and decorating by volunteers begins Dec. 26--so she has begun an effort to eliminate Carson's float from consideration for parade awards and to have it banned from television.
Mooney said letters have been written to local television stations asking that Carson's float be banned from the televised coverage of the parade, and to the Tournament of Roses asking that Carson be excluded from consideration for any awards.
"The float is a disgrace to our community and all of America," Mooney said.
Mooney, a veterinarian's assistant currently on disability, said that according to the International Council Against Bullfighting in London, 20,000 bulls are tormented and tortured annually because of bullfighting. She said that even before the bulls enter the ring their eyes are often smeared with Vaseline to blur their vision, cotton or wool is shoved in their nostrils to shorten their breath and neck muscles are cut to restrict their head movement. Also, she said, the traditional custom of cutting off the bull's ears and tail is often carried out before the bull is dead.
Toni Hopman, president of Animal Allies, a national animal rights organization, supports Mooney's effort.
Cover for Cruelty
"Jerye is absolutely right," Hopman said. "It is depicting bullfighting. Adding colorful costumes is just a cover for the cruelty. If they are saying they are just featuring the colorful costumes you might as well put a colorful costume on Hitler."
Mooney said that when she tried last month to express her opposition and describe in detail the cruelty involved in bullfighting, she was laughed at by members of the Carson Rose Float Assn., a community volunteer group that coordinates the construction of the float.
City Council members were not available for comment, but Jo Ann Miller, president of the Carson Rose Float Assn., said Mooney's interpretation of the float goes too far.
"We don't consider it a bullfighting float," she said, noting that this is the first criticism of a design in the 11 years the city has entered a float. "I understand where she's coming from, I don't like bullfighting either. But we picked it for its degree of difficulty in placing the flowers and its colorful design."
Shown Several Designs
Miller said her group was shown about 10 different designs by Bent & Son. Lofthouse said clients either request a specific design or accept one the company comes up with to meet a client's budget and ability to decorate. Both Torrance and Carson choose from designs offered by Bent & Son.
Jay Rodriguez, vice president for corporate information for NBC, which televises the parade nationally, said he had not seen the request to exclude Carson's float from the broadcast. He said that generally if a float meets the standards of the Rose Parade Assn. the network will not exclude it from the program.
Bill Walleck, chairman of the float judging committee for the parade, said decisions for prizes are based on the visual appearance of the floats, not any sociological or political messages they may have.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," he said. "The judges will make their decision based on what they see. In this case, they will see three toreadors. There are no animals depicted on the float, there are no weapons. Bullfighting is not really depicted."