A Load of Bull – Bullfighting: Part One

You won’t have to look far on an internet search for Bloggers (et al) writing about Spain. Subjects such as Tapas and touristy places abound. What you will not find people so keen to write about are the more contentious subjects. Like bullfighting for example. Regular readers (if there still are any) will know that this old dad does not shy away from such topics. Far from it. I embrace them.


And so to the divisive issue of bullfighting. A subject long overdue being given the Old Dad treatment.

In the previous post about the Spanish elections I noted that there is a party for animal rights which polled almost one third of a million votes! Animal rights is maybe a bit too general a description because their main aim is actually to ban bullfighting. Is this really the most  important issue in Spain at election time? (or any other time for that matter). It does make you wonder eh? But I digress…slightly.

It is often said that any discussion for or against bullfighting would be incomplete without some mention of the opposite view. This is what the famous author Ernest Hemingway understood when he said; “anything capable of arousing passion in its favor will surely raise as much passion against it.”

Naturally this is a tricky subject so I believe I need to deal with it in two parts. Firstly, I shall deal with the arguments against bullfighting. Later, in part two, I will cover the pro-bullfighting stance.


Let’s look at the numbers. How many corredores (bull fighting tournaments) are there per year? Roughly? Well, depending on your sources there are about 400 official bullfights a year in Spain along with up to (at least) 1,500 smaller village events. In each event there are normally six bulls (so 6 actual “fights” per corredor).

It’s estimated that about 10,000 bulls are slaughtered. Some reports say that each year, in Spain, 24,000 bulls are killed in front of an audience of some 30 million peoplered in the ring annually.

Then there are the famous bullfighting events. Examples include the running of the bulls in Pamplona (made famous by Ernest Hemmingway in his book ‘Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises’)  and the bullfights in Valencia to coincide with the month long Las Fallas fiestas in Valencia (again made famous by Hemmingway in ‘Death in the Afternoon’). Hemmingway is being referenced a lot here because he was of course a big fan of bullfighting. He admired the whole ceremony and he was responsible for putting bullfighting on the map (so to speak) for many people from non-Spanish speaking countries. another big example is the San Isidro bullfights this time of year (early May) in Madrid.

In Catalonia the regional government banned bullfighting in 2010. This was almost certainly more of an anti-Spanish action rather than an animal rights-based decision. “Look at us! We are not Spanish!”

The Case Against…

It is bloodthirsty for sure and most people opposed to it plainly see it as cruel. The bull is weakened by the horse-riding picadores who spear the bull’s shoulders. Then by the banderillas  who stick dart like objects in and around the wounds. The bull loses blood and the damage to the neck and shoulder muscles cause its head to drop for the final stage. The third and final stage is when the matador drains the last energy from the bull – the only true “bullfighting” part as such. When it is finally out of breath the matador finishes him off with a thrust of his sword between the shoulders and into its heart. Pretty gory stuff eh?

What I do not like.

Personally I have to make the following points and suggestions…

It’s certainly not a contest as there can be only one ‘winner’. Although bullfighters can and do get killed every year  (and even some spectators – espontáneos – who jump into the ring to try their hand) it is really always the bull that loses.

There is no doubt that the bullfights are too one sided. Give the bulls more of a chance I say. This could be done by just having the matador facing off against the bull. My suggestion would be to remove the first two stages of the “fight” (see above).

I agree that it is blood-thirsty but I cannot say that it is somehow uniquely cruel. After all I am a meat eater. A meat lover in fact! I know that some forms of slaughter (for meat) are just as cruel. I also find it boring after a couple of bulls have been killed. There are usually six in a corredor so the whole thing does get rather repetitive. Even the rejoneos (bullfighting on horseback) fights can be a little tedious after a few, although I do enjoy those a lot more.

What about my son?

Will I take Dani to a bullfight? Maybe. Maybe not. I certainly would not stop one of his family from taking him to see it first hand (not that they are bullfighting enthusiasts). But only when he is older. Old enough to make his own mind up. In other words his first bullfight may be his last. Who can say?




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