Bullfighting: Fine art? Or barbaric entertainment?

A matador makes moves with his cape to gruel a bull.

INTRODUCED as a spectator sport in 1726 in Spain, bullfighting went on to spread like a cancer into the south of France, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.

It bears several names: Corrida de torros, La fiesta or Novilada, but the essence remains the same – a bull is tortured and killed in front of thousands of cheering spectators, who call this “a fine art”.

It taps into a primal human instinct – a blood lust- and is similar to the events in the gladiatorial arenas of ancient Rome. But in the modern world is there still a place for slaughter to be considered a fine art?

Dmitry Dmitriev of Booked.net poses some questions about this controversial sport.

Fans and people involved in this business claim it to be a culturally important tradition cultivated for centuries. But is a wish to maintain cultural awareness among people their only motivation?

During a lesson in a bullfighting academy, Catalonia.

Bullfighting is, pardon the pun, a “cash cow”. With average tickets ranging from €11 to €90 and annual subsidies pouring into the spectacle from state authorities, bullfighting has become a good source of income and these “preservers of national traditions” are not ready to let it go.

In the 21st century these “bloody” traditions are increasingly coming into question.

That was the case in Great Britain when supporters of the fox hunt tradition made the same argument – that it was a quintessentially British tradition and part of the fabric of British culture.

Under an overwhelming amount of public and political opposition, that argument did not hold sway, it was banned in Scotland in 2002, England and Wales followed suit in November 2004.

However, bullfighting is a lot like the gambling business with one simple rule: “the house always wins”. Corrida de torros is not fair combat, the bull is destined be killed one way or another.

Basically the life of these animals is pre-ordained – they have a clear destiny. It is a life full of torment and suffering as the bull is prepped for his demise in the ring.

Multiple measures are used to not give the bull or “beast” a single chance of survival.

They include:

A matador is about to stroke a bull’s heart with a sword.

•         Weeks before the show, to make a bull weaker, it is fed only straw, and heavy weights are hung around its neck;
•         The bull is beaten in the kidneys and at the top of its’ tail, which causes strong pain, makes it lose balance and fall backwards;
•         Prior to entry into the ring, the tops of the bulls horns are shaved to make it lose navigation skills and impair co-ordination;
•         The bull is drugged to show more aggression and therefore be more entertaining for the craving audience;
•         Petroleum jelly is rubbed into bull’s eyes to worsen its vision.

Bulls are turned to gladiators for the entertainment of the mob.

After years of struggle anti-bullfighting campaigners across the world finally gained some ground and prompted authorities in Mexico, Bogota and Catalonia to start debating a ban on bullfighting.

A picture used in the anti-bullfighting campaign.

Of course, political wheels turn slowly, a ban can not be implemented overnight, a whole industry has to be closed or restructured, thousands of people will potentially lose their jobs, and a part of Latin European cultural heritage will be consigned to history.

The debate continues to rage, but looking at the facts presented, would you really want to pay money to see this happen?

Are the lives of thousands of animals and hundreds matadors worth it?

Should the tradition be maintained?

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