Hey peaceful people!! I’m bringing you another bonus post this week because there has just been so much to talk about in the animal welfare world lately. Today I’m talking all about how violent bullfighting really is. My post on Thursday is all about the FDA meeting on lab-grown meat I attended last week, so feel free to leave some questions if you’re curious about clean meat!
Today’s post is pretty timely as well, considering that the largest annual bullfighting festival in the world was last week. The San Fermín festival takes place in Pamplona, Spain every year from July 6th to July 14th. The tradition apparently dates back to the Middle Ages, though it was popularized by writer Ernest Hemingway in 1926.
The Running of the Bulls tradition takes place every morning during the festival. Anyone can participate in the half mile run from the bullpen to the ring, which takes the same route through Pamplona’s old streets every year of the festival. The 6 bulls that will be fighting that night are released for the run along with 6 more bulls who are supposed to herd the fighting bulls into the ring.
If you’re thinking that running through narrow European city streets with 12 angry bulls sounds pretty scary, that’s because it is. 16 runners have died since 1910, and injuries are incredibly common. Pile-ups are also commonplace, which can lead trampling by the bulls and other runners. This practice is incredibly dangerous (and we haven’t even touched on the staggering animal cruelty involved!) so why does it still take place? Tradition. Tourism. Corridas (bullfights) are even protected in the Spanish constitution, infringing on the ability of Spanish towns and provinces to ban the violent practice. Catalonia’s 2010 ban on bullfighting was overturned by a Spanish constitutional court that claimed cultural heritage protection for bullfighting. The ruling also threatens bullfighting bans in the Canary Islands and a number of municipalities.
Running of the Bulls 2015 from Esquire Network.
Pamplona’s festival frequently finds itself mired with controversy; this year’s festival saw demonstrations for sexual assault awareness as well as the usual animal rights protests. Even Pamplona’s mayor, Joseba Asiron, has questioned the future of the festival, saying that he envisions a San Fermín without the bullfights (although maintaining that bull runs will continue to be at the heart of the event).
The San Fermín festival (and every bullfight) entails an absurd amount of animal cruelty, all of it completely unnecessary. Before the run, bulls are kept for weeks in dark crates meant to maximize confusion and aggression during the televised run and fights. After the Running of the Bulls, festivities take place all day until the evening bullfights. The bullfights consist of matadors (people who fight the bulls) taunting and torturing the bull in front of a jeering crowd until he is too weak to stand. Matadors periodically stab the bull’s back, leaving long metal lances stuck to the poor animal’s hide and inhibiting his ability to move. By the end of a bullfight, the bull has collapsed on the ground, bleeding profusely. Still alive, he is dragged out of the bullring and hoisted onto a rack by his feet, where his throat is slit and he is left to bleed to death. It is plain to see why the term matador (bullfighter) is derived from the Spanish word matar (to kill). These men are killers, bleeding an animal to death in front of a complicit audience. These stark photos reveal exactly what happens during bullfights.
Some may claim that bullfighting is an important part of Spanish culture and that going to a bullfight is merely part of experiencing Spain’s history. Well, cultures have done a lot of abhorrent things over the years: human sacrifice, slavery, child marriage, the list goes on. Compassion isn’t cancelled just because something has been done for a long time.
The good news is that bullfighting has seen a major decline in recent years. An online survey by research group Ipsos MORI found that only 19% of Spanish adults support bullfighting, while 58% oppose it. 2 out of 3 respondents were not very or not at all proud to live in a country claiming bullfighting as a cultural tradition. A shrinking amount of Spaniards support bullfighting and even fewer actually attend bullfights; Time magazine reported that only 8.5% of Spaniards attended bullfights in 2011 (compared to 9.8% in 2007). As the world learns what really goes on at bullfights, the practice will hopefully join every other cruel and outdated cultural tradition.
What can you do? For starters, don’t go to a bullfight. The tradition is only alive because people choose to support it; the Spanish government may prohibit towns and provinces from banning it but they cannot prevent people from boycotting. If you are in Spain, you can protest bullfighting with a number of organizations: including animal rights group AnimaNaturalis and animal rights party (!!!) Pacma. You can also show this blog post to a friend who doesn’t know the reality of bullfighting!
Can you think of other ways to oppose bullfighting? Please let me know!