THE Oxford author who wrote about becoming a matador has had his appearance at a bookshop today cancelled after threats from animal rights protesters.
Alexander Fiske-Harrison says he has received at least 20 threats, including ones on his life, since writing Into The Arena: The World of the Spanish Bullfight.
He was due to hold a lunchtime talk at Blackwell’s in Broad Street today – the same day as animal rights demonstrators hold their weekly protest in South Parks Road, outside an Oxford University science building.
Mr Fiske-Harrison, 35, said: “Blackwell’s tell me that the police have said the talk’s time has to be moved after receiving a credible threat from a known person or persons vis-a-vis animal rights.
“I have had between 20 and 30 death threats. After the new threat I’m now thinking about contacting the police.
“The subject raises such strong emotions in people, even though in my book I tried to treat it in the most balanced way I could. I’ve been told I should be tortured to death. I don’t know what compels people to be so extreme.”
The author, who lives in the city, was an undergraduate at Oxford University’s Faculty of Zoology, inspired to study there by his love of animals. But a family outing to a bullfight on his first visit to Spain in 2000, aged 23, led to an obsession with bullfighting.
He spent two years in Spain’s heartland of bullfighting with matadors and breeders, talking with fans and training to fight bulls himself.
The book ends with Mr Fiske-Harrison plunging a sword into a three-year-old bull, killing the animal at the third att-empt, watched by 100 people.
The book was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award and Mr Fiske-Harrison had to have protection at the London ceremony. He said: “I stepped outside for a cigarette and a big guy walked over to me. It turned out he was the security hired to protect me.”
Euan Hirst, Blackwell’s academic manager, hopes the talk can be held on Thursday, February 9 at 7pm.
He said: “Due the controversial nature of the subject and the high level of interest in the event we have decided to rearrange the talk to ensure Mr Fiske-Harrison can be heard in a safe environment and a moderated debate may be properly conducted.
“The key factor in switching the talk was the comfort and safety of our customers, staff and speaker. Holding the talk in the evening for a ticketed audience will, we believe, make for a better environment for a reasoned, but no doubt passionate, debate ”
Despite the threats Mr Fiske-Harrison has already accepted an invitation to attend a conference at Easter on the future of bullfighting in Seville and says he will consider fighting more bulls.Since leaving St Peter’s College, Oxford, Mr Fiske-Harrison has worked as a journalist and wrote a play The Pendulum. The threat to Blackwell’s is understood to have been made by email.
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “Blackwell’s contacted us to say that the event has been cancelled after some negative attention.”
He said police were investigating with an officer going to the bookshop “to view the content of emails.”