SPAIN : World Traditional Animal Killing Festivals Bullfights

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           Spain The cruelty of bullfights
                                        !!WARNING GRAPHIC!! 

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?

Bullfighting has a very glorified public image — it is presented as a contest between the brave matador, who boldly risks life and limb to tackle a mad and ferocious beast. The matador is always dressed in a traditional costume of brilliant colours: the bullfight is seen by many as the mysterious ritual between man and beast, which is an integral part of Spanish culture and custom. For this reason, many tourists who visit Spain feel that seeing a bullfight is a necessary part of their holiday, just as tourists visiting Britain go to see the Tower of London.

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 “FIGHT"
Strictly speaking, a bullfight is composed of 3 separate “acts”, and the whole thing is supposed to last for 20 minutes, though in actual fact it varies. The opening of a bullfight begins with a tune being played on a trumpet — the tune is the special, signa lure Rifle which characterises the beginning of the horror. Upon entering the ring, bulls have been known to collapse through exhaustion alter their pre-fight ordeal — they have been dragged to their feet by the bullfighter’s assistants.


The Picadors

The sequence of events begins when the bull faces the picadors — these are the men on horseback, whose purpose it is to exhaust the bull. They cut into his neck muscles with a pica. This is a weapon of about 6-8 inches long, and 2 inches thick. Once it is thrust into the bull it is twisted round and a large, gaping wound appears. The bull then starts bleeding to death.

The Assistant Matadors

After the picador has finished his sordid business, the assistant matadors then get to work with the banderillas (sharp, harpoon-like barbed instruments). These are plunged into the bull’s body, and he may also be taunted by capes. Up to six banderillas may be used. When the banderillas strike the bull stops in his tracks and bellows madly.

The Kill 

A trumpet signals the final “act” — in fact, during the whole nightmare, strange, slow tunes are played throughout. It is, of course, during the final act that the bull is killed (and hopefully goes onto a better life). The kill should last 6 minutes, and is done by the main matador. If he has any difficulties (which is an extremely rare occurrence), the others immediately rush in to his aid and finish off the bull.
The matador is supposed to sever the artery near the heart with one thrust of the sword — in fact, this never happens. It often takes 2-3 times before the creature is mercifully released by death. By this time, the bull’s lungs and heart will be punctured and he always vomits blood. Miraculously, he sometimes attempts to rise again, and gets up on his knees, only to receive further mutilation at the hands of his tormentors. He finally gives up, goes to his knees and lies down. Even then, he is not allowed a little dignity to leave this world in peace, his ears and tail are cut off (often when he is fully conscious), and his broken, bleeding body is dragged around the ring by mules, to which he is attached by an apparatus made of wood and chains. Not content with his suffering, which must be too horrible to describe by words, the crowds boo and jeer him. They even throw empty beer cans at him. His body is then taken away to be skinned, and even then he may not be dead when this happens.



                       The Last Bullfight

"And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer — because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.
This photo shows the collapse of Torrero Alvaro Munera, as he realized in the middle of his last fight ... the injustice to the animal. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights.

The career of eighteen-year-old Colombian torero Álvaro Múnera (known by the nickname "El Pilarico") ended when he was gored by a bull during a bullfight in 1984, with the resultant spinal cord and cranial injuries leaving him paralyzed. Múnera has since become a council member in his hometown of Medellín, a position from which he advocates for the rights of the disabled and promotes anti-bullfighting campaigns. 
The widely circulated photograph displayed above purports to have captured Múnera at the very moment, in the middle of a bullfight, when he came to the realization that what he was doing was an injustice to animals and decided to henceforth campaign against bullfighting. Although Múnera did undergo such a conversion, this photo doesn't depict the instant of his change of heart, for a number of reasons:
  • Múnera didn't undergo his epiphany against bullfighting in the middle of a bullfight; he stopped participating in that activity only when he was forced out of the ring for good after a goring permanently paralyzed him.
  • The posture shown in the photograph is not one of a torero collapsing or expressing contrition; rather, it's a common posture of desplante (defiance), a bit of showmanship in which the torero indicates his total domination of the bull by taking up what appears to be a dangerous position in front of the animal's horns. (Also, the quotation that accompanies the photograph was not spoken by Múnera; it is the work of Spanish writer Antonio Gala, who was not himself a torero.)
As detailed at The Last Arena blog, this photograph isn't a picture of Múnera at all, but rather a photo of some other torero.

      In a 2008 interview, Múnera expressed that his conversion to an anti-bullfighting animal rights defender did not occur at any one moment in the ring, but was part of an ongoing process that began before, and extended after, the accident that ended his career:
Q: Did you ever think of quitting bullfighting before that bull confined you to a wheelchair?A: Yes, there were several critical moments. Once I killed a pregnant heifer and saw how the fetus was extracted from her womb. The scene was so terrible that I puked and started to cry. I wanted to quit right there but my manager gave me a pat on my back and said I shouldn’t worry, that I was going to be an important bullfighting figure and scenes like that were a normal thing to see in this profession. I’m sorry to say that I missed that first opportunity to stop. I was 14 and didn’t have enough common sense. Some time later, in an indoor fight, I had to stick my sword in five or six times to kill a bull. The poor animal, his entrails pouring out, still refused to die. He struggled with all his strength until the last breath. This caused a very strong impression on me, and yet again I decided it wasn’t the life for me. But my travel to Spain was already arranged, so I crossed the Atlantic. Then came the third chance, the definitive one. It was like God thought, “If this guy doesn’t want to listen to reason, he’ll have to learn the hard way.” And of course I learned.
Q: What was the decisive factor that made you an animal-rights defender?
A: When I went to the U.S. [for medical treatment], where I had to face an antitaurine society that cannot conceive how another society can allow the torture and murder of animals. It was my fellow students, the doctors, nurses, the other physically disabled people, my friends, my North American girlfriend, and the aunt of one of my friends, who said I deserved what happened to me. Their arguments were so solid that I had to accept that it was me who was wrong and that the 99 percent of the human race who are firmly against this sad and cruel form of entertainment were totally right. Many times the whole of the society is not to blame for the decisions of their governments. Proof of this is that most people in Spain and Colombia are genuinely anti-bullfighting. Unfortunately there’s a minority of torturers in each government supporting these savage practices.

Bullfighting professional banderillas 

                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.


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