Sunday, March 21, 2010


Spain has recently gone through yet another round of discussions on whether bullfighting should be outlawed in the country. For weeks, the most prominent writers and thinkers have been publishing articles expressing their agreement with or opposition to this measure. Spain has been criticized for a long time by other countries of the European Union that consider the practice of bullfighting "barbaric" and "uncivilized."

For those who are familiar with the term "the Black Legend of Spain", these attempts to marginalize Spain as "not truly European" are nothing new. Outlawing bullfighting will hardly help to destroy the Black Legend that has been in circulation for centuries. There will always be something else, some other sign that Spain's "Europeanness" isn't entirely "genuine." There is, of course, a lot of racism - as well as historical and cultural resentment - behind this attitude towards Spain.

I have seen bullfighting in Spain. And to tell you the truth I loved it. Unless you have seen this spectacle, try not to condemn it, because you have no idea what it is. The music, the costumes, the cheering, the choreography are mesmerizing. I did not enjoy seeing the bulls suffer, but since I eat meat (a lot) feeling appalled by the suffering of the animals would be very hypocritical. In my lifetime, I have eaten a lot more animals that were killed during that bullfight.

It's funny how people who condemn bullfighting watch boxing, wrestling, hockey, etc., the sports where actual human beings are knocked out into unconsciousness, have their faces and limbs broken into a bloody pulp, and often damaged for life. Many people enjoy the Olympics where athletes subject themselves to all kind of inhuman torture just to break the record, which pleases the public and serves the holy goals of nationalistic brainwashing. And when an athlete dies (as happened in the last Winter Olympics), well, that's sad but it's all part of the game.

One might argue that athletes choose to participate in life-threatening sports, while the bulls are incapable of consenting to being part of a bullfight. However, if you come from a country that has been dropping bombs on Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. - without seeking consent from the people on whom the bombs were thrown - your prissy disgust with bullfighting is once again hypocritical.

It's easy to be opposed to bullfighting and flatter one's self-righteousness and sense of moral superiority in this way. It is harder, however, to familiarize oneself with the reasons both behind this practice and behind its condemnation.


Kola Tubosun said...

There is one episode of Boston Legal that I like. It had an American woman sue her Mexican husband to court for custody of their 8 year old son who had taken a liking to the sport of bullfighting, and she had as an argument that it was too dangerous a sport. By the time the judge heard arguments from both sides, we realized that children who do other so called "safe" sports don't fare better either, and neither was there any evidence that the little boy was in an extra-ordinary harm's way since he got the best training.

They didn't even explore animal cruelty in the episode but I love the way it was resolved, in favour of the cultural autonomy of the Mexican to do whatever sport he wanted, as long as he is aware of the risks involved. I find this beautiful and interesting. I have never attended a bullfighting event, but I look forward to it. Like you however, I have eaten so many bull meats in my lifetime so I don't think that killing them in a sport is any less cruel than killing them in an abattoir.

In any case, it is one of Spain and Mexico's famous cultural events that doesn't hurt anyone - except occasionally the matador who has signed up for the risk - so it shouldn't be scrapped. Considering ending it is even a form of human arrogance and hypocrisy.

Clarissa said...

Thank you for recommending these series to me. We now watch Boston Legal on a regular basis. :-) Last night we watched the episode that made fun of Texas, and that's one topic of which I never tire. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think, in addition to the latent racism, it bothers people to be confronted with the reminder of the much-greater cruelty we inflict to animals for their more direct pleasure (eating) on a daily basis.

But I really like what you said about the humans who put themselves in danger (and even ballet dancers who ruin their bodies, as another example) for our enjoyment.


Crys T said...

I'm completely against bullfighting. But hey, I'm also a Spaniard, so I come at this issue from a place of knowledge and understanding of its history and place in the culture (of the relevant regions of Spain).

Having stated my position, I'd like to say that I'm glad that you, as a meat-eater, pointed out the hypocrisy of many of those who criticise the Spanish for allowing bullfights to continue while being responsible for a lot of horrific animal torture themselves.

I'd also like to point out that in many parts of the Spanish State, the only reason bullfighting has lasted as long as it has is due to tourist money. So, really, if it weren't for all those people from supposedly "more advanced" and "civilised" cultures crowding in to watch the slaughter, the bullfight might have already died a natural death. So yes, the critics are often hypocritical in more ways than one.

Finally, for those of your readers who don't actually know much about Spain, I'd like to add that there are also home-grown anti-bullfighting movements throughout the State (as well as the other states where it occurs), so the pressure for the practice to end is by no means exclusively external. I don't know how to do the fancy-schmancy embedding of links thing, but here's one example of such an organisation:

Anonymous said...

I am opposed to bullfighting and am a vegetarian. When a younger man I also used to wrestle and did boxing. I also love to watch boxing and martial arts competition. To say that one person got killed in all of the events of the entire winter olympics is comparable to bull fighting is naive. The Bull dies EVERY time. That is the outcome. I have watched perhaps 2000 boxing matches in my life and one person died after the match. During the match the referee was allowing the fighter to take way too many punches and the fight should have been stopped. But people do have a choice and can accept the risk. when people choose to be in a sport is is not the same as being in a sport that kills an animal every time

Clarissa said...

"I am opposed to bullfighting and am a vegetarian"

-Good for you, but I'm not on both counts. While I do not want to impose my dietary preferences and entertainment choices on you, why do you want to impose yours on me? I have no problem with you not eating meat and not attending bullfinghts. Why do you want to prevent me from doing what I want?

Clarissa said...

"I am opposed to bullfighting and am a vegetarian"

-Good for you, but I'm not on both counts. While I do not want to impose my dietary preferences and entertainment choices on you, why do you want to impose yours on me? I have no problem with you not eating meat and not attending bullfinghts. Why do you want to prevent me from doing what I want?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the bullfight is fascinating and that people ought to try to understand it. But that many critics are hypocritical and that other things they do are cruel is no good way to defend it. All the standard arguments in its favor are pretty weak, aren't they? The bull lives well for four years, bullfighting is a long tradition, it is art, it has a metaphysical side, great writers and artists have seen so much in it, etc.

It is actually the least cruel of the things Spaniards do to their bulls, by the way. Watch the encierros in the little villages and see how they brutalize people.

As a display of instinct it can be very instructive and as art, even elevating. But taunting an animal for the pleasure and interest of watching what will happen, and then killing it,however artfully, is hard to justify ethically. Hunting as a sport is really in the same boat and may someday have to be outlawed. Why should men kill an animal for the fun of it? Maybe they ought to be shown other kinds of fun and art.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say that though I find it hard to justify the bullfight I have seen more than two hundred of them and I was glad it wasn't outlawed in my time. There is nothing to compare with it. Thank you for throwing some of those hypocrite's stones back at them.

I also want to thank you for drawing your reader's attention to the Black Legend. Such a surprise and disappointment to see the prejudice even in great writers like Tocqueville and Burckhardt!

Clarissa said...

Welcome to the blog 100falcons!

Your blog is beautiful, it reminded me of how much I miss the beautiful Cordoba.