Bullfight – all information about the cruel « tradition »

Bullfights are still going on in Spain, France, Portugal and some South American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. In Spain alone, several thousand bulls are literally tortured to death every year under the guise of “tradition”.

How does a bullfight work?

A bullfighting performance traditionally lasts 20 minutes and ends with the cruel death of the animal. In the classic bullfight in the arena, toreros torture the animal with daggers and lances until it collapses, exhausted. Toreros are the – mostly men – actors who « fight » with the bull on the pitch. At the beginning the toreros ram the bull in the neck in a narrow passage, whereupon he – spurred on by pain – runs into the arena.

Then riders (picadores) stab the bull with lances and injure ligaments, tendons and fibers of the neck muscles, so that the animal can no longer lift its head and the later death blow becomes even easier for the bullfighter. Then toreros enter the arena on foot and stick wooden sticks with around five centimeters long barbs, so-called banderillas, in the bull’s back. [1] Due to the high blood loss, the animal is increasingly weakened, but in its agony again and again incited and chased through the arena.

Matador is fighting a bull
The matador uses a red rag to irritate the bull and a rapier to injure the animal.

In a kind of “third act” of ritual cruelty to animals, the matador tries to provoke the dying bull one last time to attack, and then to kill his carotid artery with his dagger and a deep stab in the neck. [1] If the sting fails and does not fatally wound the bull, helpers come: inside and continue to stab the animal.

How are bulls killed?

Often times, at the end of the fight, the bull is still conscious and agonized in agony. When stabbing the dagger, the matador often hits the heart, lungs or stomach instead of the carotid artery; several stabs are usually common. [2] In this condition, the bull is dragged out of the arena by chains. If the audience is satisfied with the matador, he cuts off the ears and – if the kill is particularly « convincing » – the tail of the animal in order to present it to the crowd as a trophy. The Taurus is sometimes still alive at this point.

After the procedure, helpers hang the bull upside down outside the arena and cut its neck so that it slowly bleeds to death. The bulls are then taken to slaughterhouses and tested for diseases such as BSE. If the result is negative, the stress-ridden meat is delivered to restaurants. [3] In the course of the corona pandemic, bull breeders are selling the animals to the meat industry for a tenth of the previous price. [4]

Matador stabs bull in arena
If the animal barely moves from exhaustion, the matador sticks the sword deep into its carotid artery.

What happens to the bull before the fight?

A certain type of bull is bred for bullfighting. The bulls are locked in dark stables days before the fighting. When the animals are then brought into the arena, the sun irritates their eyes, creating stress and the desired irritation. [2] It also happens that the bull’s horns are cut. As a result, he loses his sense of touch and he can no longer hit the target with his horns. [5]

Do some bulls survive the fight?

If a bull in the arena is passive and not aggressive enough, it sometimes happens that it is exchanged – the animal then does not fulfill the morbid « entertainment factor » of the paying audience. For the bull this means the direct route to the slaughterhouse and thus just another kind of agonizing death. [1]

In very rare cases some animals survive – like the four-year-old bull Desgarbado in 2008 in a bullring in southern France, because he rushed into the fight « particularly aggressively ». [6] The audience demanded a « pardon ». In the course of this, the bull was kept alive, but used for breeding purposes to provide for supplies in a cruel, exploitative industry.

Portuguese or “bloodless” bullfighting animal friendly?

In addition to the so-called “classic” bullfight, which always ends with the death of the bull, there are also so-called Portuguese or “bloodless” bullfights. In this subspecies of bullfighting, the bulls are also attacked and incited. Several men throw themselves at the animals and hold onto them until they are thrown to the ground.

Often in these allegedly bloodless bullfights, wooden sticks with barbed hooks are rammed into the backs of the bulls [7] – Animal cruelty is part of the show, the killing takes place outside the arena. In this subspecies, too, the bulls are exploited for entertainment and thus profit purposes.

What other animals suffer from bullfights?

Bulls are not the only victims in bullfights: horses that are abused for bullfights can be seriously injured or even die if the frightened bulls defend themselves with their horns. So-called picadores ride horses into the arena and stab the bull from above with lances. To keep the horses calm, the frightened escape animals are blindfolded and their ears are plugged with cotton wool.

Matador sits on a horse, whose eyes are blindfolded
In bullfighting, the horse is used as a lancer or as a « torero » horse.

Torture of bulls at cruel folk festivals

In addition to the classic bullfights in the arena, there are also folk festivals such as the “Toro Júbilo Festival”, where bulls are tormented in the name of entertainment and “tradition”. In the Spanish province of Soria every November the horns of a bull are lit. The fireballs on its horns can burn for hours, burning the bull’s body and eyes in the process.

During the bullhunt at the San Fermín Festival in Pamplona, ​​Spain, bulls are chased and beaten by hundreds of people. In their panic, they slip again and again in the narrow streets and sometimes suffer serious injuries. In the end, they will be killed in the arena.

fire bull

At the « Toro Júbilo Festival », prepared torches are tied to the horns of the bull and lit.

Pamplona bull racing

In the bull races, the so-called bull hunting, the animals are chased and beaten by hundreds of people.

Playing down violence can have devastating consequences

Playing down the torture of a defenseless animal and getting used to such acts of violence can cause psychological damage to people and lead to emotional dulling. This lowers the threshold to violence, which can lead to aggression and cruelty to animals in their environment.

The United Nations (UN) therefore advise against letting children – whether as spectators or torero – participate in bullfights. [8] In special Spanish bullfighting schools, children learn to kill at the age of ten; from the age of 14 they are allowed to kill a bull in the arena – the practice is on small bull calves. [9]

Child on a man's shoulders watches bullfighting
Some parents bring their children to the bullring from a very young age.

Majority of people oppose bullfighting

In Spain and other countries, because of the senseless glorification of violence, a broad anti-bullfighting movement has formed. In some regions of Spain, such as Catalonia and the Canary Islands, bullfights no longer take place and more and more cities are becoming bullfight-free. A survey shows that 81 percent of Spaniards are not interested in bullfighting and do not support it. [10]

Demonstrations take place regularly, sometimes with tens of thousands of people, in which mainly Spaniards, but also people from all over the world, call on the Spanish government to finally ban bullfights in the history books. [11]

Activists demonstrate against bullfighting with signs and smoke
The colored powder of the demonstrators is supposed to symbolize a new era for Spain – an era without bullfighting.

Huge subsidies keep the bullfighting industry alive

Due to the declining interest in bullfighting, the sadistic spectacle can no longer be financed from entrance fees alone. Huge subsidies – also from the EU – artificially keep the bullfighting industry alive. Farmers who raise bulls for bullfighting receive agricultural subsidies from the EU for their agricultural land. The money from German taxpayers also reaches the bullfighting industry through these EU subsidies.

According to a Spanish MP, around 130 million euros flow from the EU to Spanish fighting bull breeders every year. [12] Around 31 million euros of this come from Germany, because due to its economic strength, the country finances around 24 percent of the EU budget [13].

Dead bull lies on the blood-smeared ground
By subsidizing the breeding of fighting bulls, EU money also flows into the bullfighting industry.

What to do about bullfighting

Do not attend bullfighting events and tell friends and acquaintances about the suffering of bulls. Do not endorse travel companies that offer bullfighting visits and ask them to remove these and similar events from their offerings.

  • sources

    [1] Planet Wissen (03/18/2020): Bullfighting – tragedy with tradition, https://www.planet-wissen.de/kultur/suedeuropa/madrid/pwiestierkampftragoediemittradition100.html, (accessed on 07/01/2021)

    [2] Die Zeit (07/22/2012): The weeping bull of Pamplona, ​​https://www.zeit.de/reisen/2012-07/leserartikel-stierkampf-spanien-weinender-stier-von-pamplona, ​​(accessed on 07/01/2021 )

    [3] Tagesschau (07/06/2020): The end of the bullfight break, https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/spanien-stierkampf-corona-101.html, (viewed on 07/01/2021)

    [4] Neue Züricher Zeitung (23.01.2021): The Spanish bullfight will soon be history: memories of a fascinating ritual, https://www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/stierkampf-dem-ritual-droht-das-aus-das-sagt- much-ueber-uns-ld. 1597149, (accessed on July 1st, 2021)

    [5] Der Spiegel (07/26/1960): Feile und herrsche, https://www.spiegel.de/politik/feile-und-herrsche-a-9ecf5f81-0002-0001-0000-000043067603, (accessed on 07/01/2021)

    [6] T-Online (08.09.2008): Audience pardons brave bull, https://www.t-online.de/nachrichten/panorama/buntes-kurioses/id_16124306/publikum-begnadigt-tapferen-stier.html, (viewed on 01.07 .2021)

    [7] Portugal 360 °: Bullfighting in Portugal, https://www.portugal360.de/kultur/tradUNGEN/stierkampf, (accessed on July 1st, 2021)

    [8] United Nations (2014): Convention on the Rights of the Child. CRC / C / PRT / CO / 3-4. Vert .: General January 31, 2014.

    [9] N-TV (2016): Bullfighting schools in Spain: Here young toreros practice killing, http://www.n-tv.de/mediathek/videos/panorama/Hier-ueben-Nachwuchs-Toreros-das-Toeten-article18773776 .html, (accessed on July 1, 2021)

    [10] Express (2016): New survey shows that bullfighting is on the rise. http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/636496/poll-shows-bulfighting-on-way-out. (07/10/2016).

    [11] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (May 27, 2018): Tens of thousands demand a ban on bullfighting in Spain, https://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/tiere/demonstration-in-madrid-zehntausende-endung-verbot-von-stierkaempfen-in -spanien-15610246.html, (accessed on July 1st, 2021)

    [12] Dr. Bosch, A. (2013): Toros and Taxes. Subsidies in Spain and the EU for bullfighting and bull rearing. Report of the ERC / Catalunya Sí coalition. Leader; Dr. Alfred Bosch, Member of the Bundestag. January 2013.

    [13] Federal Foreign Office (2015): EU Budget / Multiannual Financial Framework, http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/Europa/WiSoFin/Finanzrahmen/Uebersicht_node.html, (viewed on June 21, 2021)

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