Spain The cruelty of bullfights
BanderillasIt seems hard to believe that in this so-called civilised age, a most vicious and cruel spectacle of blood continues to flourish in Spain and certain other countries. Bullfighting is barbaric and should have been banned long ago, as bear-baiting was. It is difficult to understand how crowds of people will pay money and take pleasure in watching one lone creature – who has never done them any harm — getting hacked to death. How can anyone with an ounce of compassion, cheer and chant olé as a banderilla or lance is thrust into the animal’s pain-racked body?
The bull is not an aggressive animal, and the reason he is angry and attempts to charge at the matador whilst in the bullring is mainly because he has been horrendously abused for the previous two days. 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. The bull has wet newspapers stuffed into his ears; vaseline is rubbed into his eyes to blur his vision; cotton is stuffed up his nostrils to cut off his respiration and a needle is stuck into his genitals. Also, a strong caustic solution is rubbed onto his legs which throws him off balance. This also keeps him from lying down on the ground. In addition to this, drugs are administered to pep him up or slow him down, and strong laxatives are added to his feed to further incapacitate him. He is kept in a dark box for a couple of days before he faces the ring: the purpose of this is to disorientate him. When he is let out of the box, he runs desperately towards the light at the end of the tunnel. He thinks that at last his suffering is over and he is being set free — instead, he runs into the bullring to face his killers and a jeering mob.
The Assistant Matadors
Running of the Bulls
Every year from July 7th-14th thousands pack into Pamplona to start Spain's most famous bull-running fiesta to honour Navarre capital's patron saint, San Fermin. Spain stages more than 3,000 fiestas (festivals) each year but the 7 days of bull-running are the favourite in terms of spectacle and excitement.
After the daybreak of July 7th, runners (mainly young men) gather at the bottom of Santo Domingo, which is the starting line. They crowd together and sing to the image of San Fermin which is placed in a niche on a wall. The song goes: "A San Fermín pedimos, por ser nuestro patrón, nos guíe en el encierro dándonos su bendición" ("We ask San Fermín, as our Patron, to guide us through the Bull Run and give us his blessing.")
Then, as a rocket goes off, a number of fighting bulls are let out onto the streets. A second rocket is then let off to make sure everyone knows the bulls are loose in the street. The bulls run along the narrow street 825 metres (half a mile) to a bull ring. The runners dash along in front of the bulls, aiming to feel the breath of the bull on their backs, getting as close as possible - all whilst trying to avoid getting gored by their sharp horns.
The supposed way to do this is to start off slowly when the bulls are quite a distance behind. Then as they get nearer start running like hell! You can then go near them for a short time, as near as you are prepared to risk it, and then quickly get out of the way. Runners look for a gap in the fence to slip through or jump over, or a space against the wall of the street.
When the bulls finally reach the end of the street, they go into pens and are kept until later that day they are killed in a bullfight.
The tradition is said to have come from practicality when, in 1591 residents merely had to herd the bulls to the bull-fighting arena. At first only the drovers were used to lead the bulls. But it seems that at some date, the butchers guild, who had the responsibility of buying the bulls, began to join in with the drovers and began to chase behind the bulls and heifers up to the bull-ring from Santo Domingo street - the starting point of the run.
As time passed the event became more and more popular and some people began to run in front of the bulls and not behind them, as the drovers do. In 1852, a new bull-ring was built and a new route - becoming much shorter also, because as from 1899, it was decided to bring the bulls up to a small corral in Santo Domingo street the night before they fight in the ring.
Originally only a few daring souls ran with the bulls but the adrenaline rush of running in front of a 1500lb bull has since caught on. People now journey from all around the world to run with the bulls.
Other cities in Spain also have bull running festivals if you can´t make San Fermin or don´t like crowds. Aravaca-Pozuelo, a suburb of Madrid, for example, has a bull running festival in late summer.
Entertainment….That’s Just a Load of ‘Bull’
Today, all over Spain there are hundreds of bull and cow ‘torture’ fiestas where animals are brutally attacked by violent crowds. Thousands of animals are tortured to death each year, and hundreds of horses involved in the fiestas are also gored to death in the process.
During one recent fiesta, a pregnant cow actually gave birth to its calf while being stabbed during the festival.
In Algemesi, a hundred baby bulls are dragged away from their mothers to be tortured by groups of young men. In Villalpando Zamora, three bulls are let out in the field and participants come with quads, motorcycles, tractors with trailers, on horseback or on foot, and vehicles just drive over the exhausted bulls for the fun of the crowd.
In many villages, bulls are tied up and their horns set on fire, burning the bulls’ faces and rendering them blind. These bulls run into walls and stumble over things just to entertain people. After hours of torture, the bulls all die and their bodies are cut apart and distributed amongst the participants. Sometimes the bulls are burned alive. At others, bulls are tortured until they jump in the water to escape, some of whom drown. In Peñalsordo, Extremadura, Spain, six young cows are tortured to death, four in the makeshift plaza and two released to be tormented in the streets, all witnessed by children. To soften up bulls before bull fights and festivals, they often have substances rubbed into their eyes to blur their vision, cotton balls inserted in their nose to weaken their respiration, and a needle stuck into their genitals.
These fiestas are defended, and actively promoted, by the Spanish government as being part of their cultural heritage. As a lawyer involved with the media, I know many experts say that people who enjoy inflicting such savage violence onto animals, or even watching it, are a potential danger to other people, especially children, something tourists are entitled to know about.
Understandably such cruelty is causing outrage among millions of people all over the world, as the publicity of these shocking events spreads in the media and internet.
Many have said they would expect a travel company to forewarn them of such events and if they accidentally stumbled across such an event without having been warned they would take some sort of action against the travel company. They have also said they would be alarmed at the risk of coming across such people while on holiday.
Millions of people all over the world care deeply about animal welfare, and as publicity of animal abuse grows hugely, increasing numbers are saying they would favour and publicise travel companies who advised people about animal abuse issues as it is so important to them. Powerful animal charities should also publicise travel companies who promote, and do not promote, animal welfare.
Make the right choice – for those that say it’s entertainment, that really is a load of bull.
Watch Bullfighting 60 Second