Bullfighting: art or ritual torture?

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Although there are millions of bullfighting aficionados (fans) around the world who glory in the pomp and ceremony of an age-old Spanish tradition, there are equally as many – if not more – who are repulsed by it.
Ernest Hemingway’s writings in the 1920s turned Pamplona’s annual fiesta of San Fermin from a local event into an internationally recognised spectacle that now attracts a growing million plus visitors each year.
Sue Griggs from the Animal charity SOS Animals in Andalucía, told Euro Weekly News (EWN): “It makes me sick; bullfighting is simply wrong. It’s a cruel, antiquated and barbaric sport that has no place in a so-called civilised European country. It’s a tragedy.”
Spanish animal rights groups such as the Mallorca Sense Sang – who oppose the ‘blood- thirsty sport’ – stage dramatic public protests in order to seek an end to it.
Ric Polansky, an EWN columnist, sees things differently. After living in Spain for over 40 years, and being somewhat of an expert aficionado, he despairs at people’s unwillingness to see the real picture.
“Bullfighting is an art form,” he said. “The hypocrisy of people who line up at the supermarket to buy their beef – not giving a second thought as to how the thousands of cows are killed daily to put meat on their table – are the same people that complain about (as they see it) one bull being killed.”
For the multitude of devout bullfighting fans, and for hundreds of years, the bull (and combat with him) has been revered in Spain’s unique culture as the ultimate battle between man and beast. The Spanish never refer to it as ‘entertainment’, rather ‘a ritual sacrifice’.
For the many that pay thousands of euros for front row seats, banning bullfighting would be deemed akin to banning football in the UK, and fail to see the difference between a bull being killed in the ring to one being slaughtered in an abattoir.
The anti-bullfighting camp on the other hand would argue that slaughtering an animal and animal cruelty are two different issues. No matter the reason, an animal should not be purposely made to suffer before its death. So maybe this is where the bone of contention lies.
Juan Moran, a bull breeder from Torre de Rico in Murcia said: “The bulls are bred just for this reason. If there were no bullfights, they would be extinct. They are very well looked after throughout their life, and die honourably and quickly doing what they naturally want to do, fight!
Mallorca Sense Sang disagree. They say that cruelty is evident. The bulls are tortured for days before the actual event, not to mention the poor horses that get injured into the bargain.
There is of course the money aspect to the spectacle that should also be factored in. The sport is largely funded with public money, and critics claim the government has paid sums in excess of €500 million every year in subsidies to bull breeders.
The argument on that front however seems more than valid. With the huge revenues bullfighting brings to the Spanish tourist industry – apparently some 12 per cent of the yearly total – the question isn’t so much, ‘can we afford it?’ but can we afford not to have it?
Sue Griggs quoted Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” She said: “I live in this country, and I don’t want to be labelled an animal abuser, it has to stop now.”

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