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Debate: Bullfighting

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Is bullfighting acceptable in modernity, or should it be banned?

Background and context

Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador), in which one or more bulls are baited and usually killed by a matador in a bullring for sport and entertainment.
It is often called a blood sport by its detractors but followers of the spectacle regard it as a fine art and not a sport as there are no elements of competition in the proceedings. Bullfighting is banned in most countries, and has been banned more recently in some countries and regions with long histories and traditions with the event. Most notably, bullfighting was banned in 2010 in the Spanish region of Catalonia and its largest city Barcelona, where it has a centuries long history and attracted international fame. At the same time, places like Madrid have responded to such actions by officially preserving bullfighting as an art form. This means that anti-bullfighting activists can be charged with a crime and a substantial fine for disrupting the patrimony of bullfighting and Spanish culture. These historic actions have re-enlivened the debate about bullfighting in Spain and around the world. The pro and con arguments and select quotations from editorials, op-eds, and books are outlined below.
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Decency: Is bullfighting decent or does it verge on animal torture?

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Yes

  • Life of bullfighting bull more decent than factory bull. Robert Elms. "End bullfighting and you give in to the neutering forces of accepted taste." The Independent. July 31st, 2010: "Those who see bullfighting as cruel are, of course, right. It is cruel that man should breed and kill animals for his enjoyment whether as a dinner or a dance. But to my mind the life of an Iberian fighting bull, a thoroughbred animal which lives to a minimum age of four, roaming wild, feasting on Spain's finest pasture, never even seeing a man on foot, is far superior to that of the many thousands of British bulls whose far shorter lives are spent entirely in factory conditions and killed in grim abattoirs so that we can eat beefburgers."
  • Bulls are celebrated and honored in bullfighting. In most bullfighting countries, bulls are honored as mystical creatures of immense strength and beauty. Statues of bulls regularly stand outside of bullfighting stadiums, and depict the animals in the most majestic, strong, and beautiful way possible. These statues frequently stand alone without an accompanying matador in the depiction. This respect and appreciation of the bull is a demonstration of the decency with which the art form treats the animal.
  • Clean and quick kills are prized in bullfighting. All members of the bullfighting community, fighters and crowds alike, prize quick and relatively painless kills. If a matador fails to deliver such a kill, and the bull suffers needlessly, then he will be jeered and shamed. This dynamic demonstrates a clear sense of decency within the bullfighting community.
  • Bullfighting fosters an understanding of violent death. Ernest Hemingway: "The only place where you could see life and death, i. e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it. I was trying to learn to write, commencing with the simplest things, and one of the simplest things of all and the most fundamental is violent death."[1]


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No

  • Bullfighting is an indecent form of torture Jeremey Bentham, Theory of Legislation. Principles of the Penal Code. "The Culture of Benevolence". 1802 - "Cock-fights and bull-fights, the chase of the hare and the fox, fishing, and other amusements of the same kind, necessarily suppose a want of reflection or a want of humanity; since these sports inflict upon sensitive beings the most lively sufferings, and the most lingering and painful death that can be imagined."[2]
  • Bulls are usually not killed quickly, die in agony. According to anti-bullfight veterinarian José Zaldívar, in the great majority of cases, the matador missed the vital spot that would cause the bull to die quickly. "These provoke internal bleeding. It is a slow, agonising death – as the high acidity of their blood proves."[3]
  • Bulls can't reason, but they can suffer; bullfighting wrong. Jeremy Bentham once said: "It doesn't matter if they can reason; it doesn't matter if they can speak; what does matter is if they can SUFFER."[4]
  • Body parts may be cut-off while bull is still alive. "What's wrong with bullfighting?" League against cruel sports: "At the end of the fight, the bull may not be yet dead while his body parts are cut-off to be kept as trophies. Spanish bull breeders receive EU agricultural subsidies, meaning that UK taxpayers' money goes to support this terrible industry."
  • Bulls' horns may be shaved, making them very sensitive to pain. In order to reduce the risk to the matador, sometimes a bulls horns are shaved. This can inflict some pain on the bull and can also make it more sensitive to other forms of pain during the fight.
  • Horses suffer in bullfighting as much as bulls. Bullfighting bloodbath.com: "Bulls are not the only creatures to suffer in bullrings. The tormented bull does not understand that it is the man on the horse's back that is causing his pain, only that he is in agony. He therefore sees the horse as his enemy as much as the man. It's not unusual for horses used in bullfights to be so badly gored by the bulls that they have to be killed, but only after they have been dragged from the ring and the view of the spectators."


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Culture: Is bullfighting a cultural, artistic practice?

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Pro

  • Bullfighting has long historical and mythical roots. Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The killing of the sacred bull (tauroctony) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representation of what seems to be a man facing a bull is on the celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting "El toro de hachos", both found in Spain.
  • Bullfighting is "last serious thing in modern world." Poet Garcia Lorca said in the 1930s, the corrida is "the last serious thing in the modern world".[6]
  • Bullfighters are good heroes and role models for youth. In Spain, many youth idealize bull fighters for their strength, grace, and wit in outmaneuvering bulls. This is valuable in inspiring and compelling success in future generations.


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Con

  • Inflicting pain for the purposes of entertainment is wrong. International Movement Against Bullfights: "The truth is, if a creature suffers then there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. All animals are sentient beings that experience joy, happiness, fear and pain, in the same way that human beings do. We can have no right whatsoever to make them suffer for our "enjoyment". If any torture inflicted to an animal deserves condemnation, bullfights are the worst kind of torture since they are performed solely in the name of entertainment. We must end the animals' torture and stop these shows of brutality and violence. It is too small a step from the intentional infliction of pain on an animal to the torture and killing of human beings."
  • Bullfighting is about entertaining a crowd's blood lust. Part of the pull of bullfighting for crowds is witnessing death. Advocates of the practice make this into an argument for the practice. But, a desire to see death in front of one's own eye's amounts to bloodlust. Why should humans be accommodated in such a morbid pursuit?
  • Bullfighting validates torturing animals for entertainment. International Movement Against Bullfights: "These outdated spectacles perpetuate the idea that injuring and killing an animal for amusement is acceptable."
  • Cultural tradition is no justification for cruel bullfighting Many traditions have been defended for their cultural, traditional value. Stoning women for immodesty is one of them. We know very well that such tradition-for-tradition's-sake arguments are debunk. The same holds true with bullfighting, a tradition that is based on cruelty to bulls.
  • People need not see bull die in order to understand death. Video, pictures, books, and news reports all make it possible for individuals to learn about and understand death. It's occurring around us naturally all the time. It is completely unnecessary, therefore, to artificially produce death in the bullfighting arena in order to create an appreciation of the cycle of life and death, etc. Nature watching is also a good alternative. Or even hunting or fishing, in which an individual generally attempts to quickly and decently kills an animal that they will then eat. Torturing and bull for entertainment is unnecessary when compared to these outlets for understanding life and death.
  • Bullfighting makes for a barbaric society. Eric Gallego, an animal rights protester, said in 2010 to the Times Online: “Bullfighting is a bloody entertainment. We must stop this cruelty because we don’t want to be a barbaric society in Europe.”[7]


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Fair fight? Is bullfighting a fair fight?

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Yes

  • More risks the bullfighter takes the better The best bullfighters are the ones that come closest to the bull, letting its horns pass inches by the fighters side, etc. The greater the risk for the bullfighter, the greater the reward from the crowd. This pressure makes the fight more fair. The bullfighter is not trying to stay as far away as possible in order to make a riskless kill; they are trying to demonstrate their courage and bravery in the face of potentially fatal risks.
  • Bullfighters and others are regularly gored. Bullfighters are frequently gored in bullfighting, although it is relatively rare that they are killed. There was a gruesome goring in 2010 in Spain, in which the horn of the bull entered through the neck of a matador and through his mouth.[8] The fight is not perfectly fair, but it is plenty fair.
  • Bulls horns are usually kept sharp for fights. In Spain and most other countries with bullfighting, the horns of bulls are not shaved, but rather kept sharp. The fact that they are not usually shaved demonstrates that organizers and crowds want to keep the fight fair and suspenseful. Savvy fans would not have it any other way.
  • Bullfighting symbolizes man's mastery over nature. Fighting the bull doesn't have to be a completely fair fight; that misses the point, which is that man has developed a mastery over the tools and techniques required to control and overcome certain elements of nature, such as a two thousand pound bull.


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No

  • Not a fair fight: gang of armed men against one bull. "What's wrong with bullfighting?" League Against Cruel Sports: "A bullfight is never a fair fight, as the confused and frightened bull faces a matador and several other men, some on horseback, armed with terrible weapons. Read more bullfighting facts."
  • Not a fair fight; bullfighters rarely injured/killed. BullfightBloodbath.com: "What about the "brave" matadors, picadors and their ilk? Bullfighters are rarely injured and seldom killed in the ring. With their armory of weapons to weaken the bull until it can no longer fight, their lives are not at great risk. In fact, in the last 50 years only 10 bullfighters have been killed worldwide."
  • "Mastery of nature" can be demonstrated w/o torturing bulls. Man can show his "mastery over nature" in many ways. Technology, science, agriculture, and industrial processes are great ways. Torturing bulls for entertainment is not necessary in the face of the alternative means.
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Danger to humans: Are the risks to humans acceptable?

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Pro

  • Many cultural and sporting events involve serious risks. Futbol, American football, rugby, boxing, acrobatics, and many other cultural and sporting events involve serious, inherent risks to humans. But, they are not banned. Bullfighting should not, therefore, be alienated for the risks that it entails.
  • Risks of bullfighting brings out courage and bravery. If there were no risks, there could be no bravery in bullfighting. The matador wants to take these risks so that he can demonstrate his courage, and the fans honor that ultimate risk-taking. These risks should not be shunned, but celebrated, just as they often are in other cultural and sporting events.
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Con

  • Bullfighting is too dangerous to humans to justify Many matadors are gored each year. In 2010, famed matador Julio Aparicio was gored in the throat by a bull during the Festival of Saint Isidro. The bulls horn went through his neck and throat and up through his mouth. Such gruesome scenes, and the risks that matadors must take with their lives, have no place in a modern society.
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Economics: Is bullfighting important to some economies?

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Pro

  • Bullfighting is economically important in many regions. "The ban will be economically disastrous for Catalonia, and not just because of direct losses," the head of Spanish bullfighting lobby group Mesa del Toro, Eduardo Martin Penato, told the online edition of daily newspaper Publico in January of 2010.[9]
Following the ban in Catalonia, sector representatives could demand as much as 400 million euros in damages in courts to compensate for losses caused by the ban, including to hotels, restaurants and other establishments.[10] A conservative lawmaker in the Catalan parliament noted that this "is enough to build six hospitals, 100 schools or fight against unemployment."
Top Spanish matador El Juli said about the Catalonia ban that it "would cause big losses for an important economic sector, which provides a livelihood for many families."[11]
The bullfighting sector directly employs about 40,000 people in Spain, according to some sector estimates. International accounting network BDO has also estimated that bullfighting generates about 2.5 billion euros a year for the Spanish economy, drawing 14 million spectators last year.[12]


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Con

  • Bullfighting is not that big of a tourist draw. Caroline Lucas. "Cut the bullfighting." The New Statesman. June 5th, 2008: "Economic concerns focus on bullfighting as a vital part of the tourist industry in Spain; as a generator of money and as an employer of people. Yet, tourists will visit Spain regardless of whether or not bullfighting exists, and as people become more ethically aware on their travels, tourist attendance at the shows looks set to fall even further. Indeed, a ComRes poll commissioned in April 2007 found that 89% of the British public would not visit a bullfight when on a holiday."
  • Bullfighting requires significant government subsidization. Caroline Lucas. "Cut the bullfighting." The New Statesman. June 5th, 2008: "the subsidies that prop up this declining industry take money away from serious social problems such as access to public health, education, infrastructures, the elderly, public safety, social housing and environmental policies."


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Public opinion: Where does public opinion stand?

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Pro

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Con

  • Majorities in bullfighting states & elsewhere oppose it. "What's wrong with bullfighting?" League Against Cruel Sports: "Recent polls have shown that the majority of people are against bullfighting. 89% of British people would not visit a bullfight (ComRes 2008), whilst in Spain 67% are not interested in bullfighting (Gallup 2008). In France, 69% of people oppose public funding for bullfighting (YouGov 2009)."


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Pro/con sources

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Yes

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No

See also

External links and resources

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