Bullfighting: The Sordid Reality

In this age, we like to think we are activists; fighting for equality, justice and peace for humans and animals. Think again.

Arguably, we have progressed in terms of human rights, but have we actually charged forward in our fight against animal cruelty? Yes, we do have the well-respected RSPCA and countless protests against animal testing but this may solely be because of our universal morality – we have learned to see and speak up against abuse. However, what if animal cruelty is ingrained so deep into a culture that it is not only hidden but enjoyed as a spectator sport?

Matadors weave a blindfold in front of the eyes of the thousands who surge forward to watch them in the name of culture. Bullfighting festivals have been celebrated for over 300 years and are seen by many as an integral part of culture, particularly in Spain. One of the reasons it’s considered honourable are the fatal risks that matadors face in the ring against ‘unpredictable’ and ‘vicious’ bulls. It is true that the sport certainly creates a tense atmosphere – it’s captivating to see a predator stalk its victim, but it’s the matador that usually defeats the bull. It’s as if the roles of both parties have been mistaken.

bullfighting picture
The bull is tortured before being killed

Stereotypically, bulls are portrayed as violent and irrational but in reality they are bred by farmers and show a healthy respect for humans (unless deliberately provoked). Bulls are immensely muscular and therefore capable of causing considerable damage if they do become aggressive – and yet 250,000 bulls are killed each year at the hands of matadors. Shockingly, this is because the bulls who are enlisted to fight are severely abused for two days before the fight, forcing them into a state of physical weakness and mental instability. It may seem like a vicious animal but the truth remains hidden in the wings.

Unfortunately, the torture only continues. The bull is forced into exhaustion at the start of the fight by picadors on horseback who deliberately wound the creature, marking the beginning of a slow, barbaric death. Assistant matadors then take the stage and for the audience’s entertainment perform ‘tricks’ with the bull, injuring it further. Eventually, the main matador performs the final act, playing the hero as he plunges a sword into the heart of the bull, completing the degrading sequence by granting the bull its death; perhaps as a mercy.

Matador picture
The sport is dangerous and can result in injury or death for the matadors

Yet, despite its ruthless nature, people still argue that bullfighting is a tradition, not realizing that this excuse can also be given for female genital mutilation and inbred racism. We are a known generation of advocates for the rights of people and animals, so it’s unjustifiable to overlook inhumane practices like bullfighting just because they are embedded into civilisation. Instead, it is important to ask ourselves: can culture ever justify cruelty of any kind?

Today, organisations such as UK World Animal Protection and the League Against Cruel Sports work towards introducing a ban against bullfighting and are rapidly gaining support for this cause, However, governments are yet to be swayed. Raising awareness is crucial so that in the future, a brutal sport can be brought to the end of an atrociously long reign.


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