Sunday, January 03, 2010

Bullfighting: the beginning of the end

Catalunia votes to ban one of the most barbaric 'events' in Europe.

It looks like the UK press just twigged it, but two weeks ago the Catalan Parliament voted to begin the legislative process that will totally ban bullfighting from the autonomous Spanish region.

With 67 votes in favour (including the separatist Catalan left, the Greens and most socialists), against 59 (the conservative Partido Popular and some socialists), the Catalan parliament endorsed "Prou", a recent petition calling for the traditional Spanish 'corrida de toros' to be outlawed - on the basis that "a subsidized, legal and public event wherein animals are tortured and killed is unacceptable in the 21st century".

One of the most shameful aspects of Spanish politics is the fact that, in 2008 alone, 600m Euros of public money were granted in support of the bullfighting industry.

Though opinion polls suggest that bullfighting is frowned upon by over 72% of the Spanish population, Catalunia is the region where opposition to the 'event' is overwhelming.

This spurred extra controversy from Spanish nationalists accusing the Catalans of closing in on bullfighting as another means to the end of separatism. And yet in the last twenty years hundreds of town councils across the whole of Spain and the Canary Islands have declared themselves 'bullfighting-free zones'.

Those supporting bullfighting generally cling on to:

1- Some unspecified notion of "tradition", a point that glosses over the endless list of obnoxious activities that have been upheld throughout history in the name of tradition, from public flagellations and corporal punishment through patriarchal social orders or arranged marriages.

2- The fact that a huge number of animals are killed anyway by the meat industry, as if two wrongs automatically made a right.

3- The myth that before the 'fight', bulls are well-fed and especially farmed. Which means that if Jewish prisoners during WWII had been fed haute cuisine and hosted in quality hotels instead of concentration camps, the Nazi gas chambers would have earned legitimacy.

Supporters also generally ignore the fact that a bull is never killed in one go, and it can take ages until its body is weakened and finally stabbed through the heart.

Traditionally, the event was presented to the public as a contest between the brave matador, who boldly risks life and limb to tackle a mad and ferocious beast.

The reality is somewhat different. Bulls, who are not aggressive animals, are kept in dark rooms and deprived of water and food for days in the run-up to the massacre. The idea is to stress them out and make them 'angrier'. Just before they're released in front of the toreador, they are attacked by men on horseback called picadores, whose task is to stab the animal with lances in order to render him less dangerous for the battle. In the process, it is not uncommon for the horses to end up severely injured by the pain-crazed bull.

In fact, what spectators see is not a normal, healthy bull, but a weakened, half-blinded and mentally destroyed version, whose chances of harming his tormentors is virtually nil.

It honours Catalunia that the country is moving away from such a bloody, barbaric, cruel and useless ritual. Unlike some glaze-eyed opponents suggest, the ban is not an act of "socialism" and "state interference", it's an act of humanity and progress instead.

It's evidence that we are finally moving away from a medieval society where, say, it was normal for prisoners to have their body torn apart, presumed witches to be burnt at the stake and men to routinely batter women in order to re-assert their masculinity.


Jim Tulsa said...

Those who want to pull the plug on bullfighting may actually achieve one thing only: the extinction of a whole species. Because without bullfighting, bulls won't survive.

Many bulls that today are reared by the bullfighting industry will have to be sacrificed.

And, instead of fights taking place in public arena, they'll be conducted in secret.

If this is good for the soul of the anti bullfighting lobby then good for them.

Because supposing that pro-bull fighters are animal torturers, then the abolitionists are non other than animal mass-murderers.

claude said...

Dear god mate,
you'll have to do better than that.

It's no wonder the pro-bull fighting camp is rapidly shrinking in Spain and that only 1 in 6 Spaniards are in favour of it.

"Arguments" like yours contain more holes than mouldy Swiss cheese.

As for bullfighting "conducted in secret"...Whereabouts, in your living room? Is it that big?

Dave Semple said...

I think bullfighting is a rather brutal practice, and I'm pleased that Cataluna will no longer have people stabbing animals with lances just for fun.

That said I think it is woefully out of proportion to equate bullfighting with the holocaust, which is precisely what you did in point 3. You equate the "treating bulls well before they are killed" argument, if it holds, is also true for "treating Jews well before they are killed".

It's not, unless you view all animal life as being equal to human life, and thus utilising your point 2, that meat eating is wrong, the analogy seems to apply to the meat-consuming industry and populat as well.

Surely not?

claude said...

Dave Semple,

Pro-bullfighting types generally say that a well-fed and well-reared bull is a justification for the heinous stuff that will later go on in the bullring.

The idea behind my "point 3" is that the above concept is absurd. I never thought that handing "good food" to a creature, any creature, human or otherwise, in the days, weeks or months prior to a brutal, torturous execution would make the execution any more justifiable or morally acceptable. And that's what my "equation" was about.

And if you found the comparison offensive, well, I say there's no point mincing words here especially when there are people who would cling onto anything to perpetrate a barbaric (and money making) practice.

As for the meat-eating industry, though I personal despise most of what it does, at least there is some kind of purpose. Whereas bullfighting is killing in the name of entertainment and medieval notions of masculinity.

But that's a whole different debate which shouldn't deflect from the fact that bullfighting should be banned full stop.

"It's not, unless you view all animal life as being equal to human life, and thus utilising your point 2, that meat eating is wrong".

I don't know if all animal life is equal to human life. But I know that gratuituous cruelty is equally degrading and appalling against any defenceless creature and it makes my stomach churn.

Fruitbat said...

Jim Tulsa, if bulls would 'go extinct', that would mean that mostbulls are bred purely for the purposes of torturing, tormenting and killing them in the name of entertainment. Why would I wish something so utterly horrific on a species as existing purely to be caused misery? Why is it a good argument to keep on breeding them for this purpose?

I find it laughable that you would call abolitionists 'mass-murderers' when said animals would otherwise be killed by bullfighters in far more barbaric ways while you advocate allowing them to breed and kill yet more animals. Hardly the more compassionate option, is it?

Helen Highwater said...

I didn't know this - interesting!

Then again, how close are we to the outright banning of hunting with horses and dogs in the UK? I don't understand enough about the legislation to get what the difference is. Do they chase the fox while on horseback and then shoot it? Do they still use dogs but nip in before the dogs have the chance to kill the fox? And - will the Tories (who, let's face it, will probably get in) overturn the legislation and make it legal again?

Helen Highwater said...

PS: I'm wondering about those secret bullfights too. You'd have to live in a very remote mountain village which consists mainly of a bullring for that work!

Anonymous said...

"The beginning of the end".
I don't know about that Claude.
The Canary Islands banned bullfighting in the 90's, many people thought that it spelt the end of bullfighting but it's still ongoing.

Many of the spanish people that are against bullfighting ,that i've known and talked about it, and it's plenty (i'm from spanish stock, been around there etc.).
What they're against is the killing of the bull, not the act of bullfighting as such.
People from the north (Asturias)have this acrobatic/bullfighting thing. What they do is jump and somersault over the running bull...Weird i know, but hey! I suppose it's a start.