One bull, seven opponents.
A bull has horns, we have swords.
If it was a board game, we’d guess the winner before we even roll the dice, and if it was a card game we wouldn’t dream of laying our chips down for the bull to win.
I’ve heard and read many excuses for allowing the ‘art’ of the Spanish bullfight to continue (even though it’s recently been banned in Catalonia in 2012 and is losing ground in much of Spanish culture), and I’d like to address a few of them here.
Whilst I am an advocate for animal rights, I am also no saint. Yes, unfortunately, I am a carnivore. I eat meat, and if there is a more humane way for me to obtain my meat products I would love to know about it, as I don’t think I could survive on cabbage and tofu. But there is, cruelty aside, a certain necessity in consuming meat (though I’m sure Morrissey would disagree); our ancestors started hunting meat as soon as they left the trees, and wild chimpanzees have been known to hunt, kill and eat monkeys on occasion.
However, allowing a blood sport to continue in 2015 that has no other merit than masochistic entertainment, seems to me, utterly barbaric no matter what excuses you give:
Have a nice life, until we butcher you
Whilst I am in no way promoting abattoirs and animal slaughter, the justification that the bull gets to live in relative luxury for five or six years before the bullring is no justification at all. I’m sure that the bull is not recollecting his green pasture and his doe-eyed cows whilst blood is being drawn from his neck by barbed swords and the barbed pleasure of the bloodythirsty crow.
But we eat them too
After his meat has been tenderised by swords, exhaustion and adrenaline, the poor bull finds his way into the human food chain, the finest beef money can buy, for a privileged few. For the thousands of others who walked into the bullfight just to watch; you watched it die for nothing.
During the bullfight the bull is encouraged to charge at blindfolded and padded horses; once again the stakes are not even. The horse’s primary defence is its vision and speed; both denied it in the bullring. Never mind the fact that the bull is confronting an alien situation and maddened by rage is forced to charge at a fellow beast of burden. Horses have been horribly mutilated and killed in a situation that they nor the bull would likely ever encounter in the wild.
A fair fight
A certain number of hits must be made before progressing to stage two of the bullfight, to weaken and tire the bull by causing damage and blood loss. Repeated stabs in the neck and the bull’s handicap becomes the matador’s advantage. Only now is it a fair fight for the matador.
In the next stage of the fight know as the tercio de banderillas three ‘banderilleros’ each plant barbed sticks with coloured flags deep in the bull’s blood-drenched shoulders. These further weaken the enormous neck and shoulder muscles and chaste the bull to charge more aggressively to defend itself. Fighting bulls are bred to have deliberately massive shoulders, if only to allow more pain to be inflicted upon them long enough to draw a significant crowd.
The act of thrusting the sword in the final act should be quick and sever the bull’s spinal cord. A poor execution will cause protest and anger from the crowd and could seriously harm the matador’s reputation. Kill it instantly and spare it pain – a final act of humility, or saving grace for the matador?
But it’s tradition
One of the most frustrating excuses for continued cruelty in the world, whether animal or otherwise, comes down to tradition. Traditions die when we realise they are barbaric and ignorant: the locking away of menstruating women, child slavery and child marriages, witch hunting, fox hunting…Traditions are not infallible.
“If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.”
― Peter Singer“