Too Much Bull

I'm with the thousands of Spaniards who recently demonstrated in Madrid for an end to bullfighting.

We obviously share the opinion that the ritual killing is an inhumane, blood-soaked exercise rather than a cultural art form projecting Spain's image to the world. And we are not alone.

A recent Spanish poll found 57 percent of the respondents repudiating bullfighting, even though through the ages the activity has been widely regarded as Spain's signature recreational pastime.

As humanity's technological capacity to destroy the planet has grown, attitudes have begun to change. Ethics have crept into mankind's treatment of the animal world, even in respect to species earmarked for human consumption. It reflects an increasing sentiment that lower life forms are sentient organisms that ought to be dealt with as humanely as possible.
Hence, for growing numbers of Spaniards as well as members of other nationalities, the spectacle in the bull ring has become a glorified exercise in animal cruelty and assassination.

That certainly is how I viewed it after attending my first and only bullfight years ago in Madrid's main arena.

The featured matador that day was billed as an exciting newcomer on the verge of challenging the more prominent members of his profession. As usual, a soon-to-be slain bull was released into the ring where it was repeatedly stabbed by lancers on horseback and jabbed from behind by sneaky junior matadors on foot. Consequently, the mutilated animal was soon bleeding and understandably boiling with rage (which was the general intent of the violent foreplay).

That was the cue for the "promising" young matador to enter the arena. He proceeded to use his cape to entice the charging bull into some breathlessly close passes. Unfortunately, his taunting nonchalance betrayed him as he sought to exert a hypnotic mastery over the pain-riddled beast. In a blink of an eye, the young matador was lifted from the ground by the bull's massive horns and catapulted a dozen or so feet into the air before landing flat on his back in a motionless heap. He was carried out of the arena as the junior matadors rushed to maneuver the exhausted bull in position for the fatal sword thrust. Suddenly, the crowd gasped as the wounded matador miraculously staggered back into the arena to dispatch the animal, which by this time appeared more dead than alive. Its breath was short as it stood shakily in the center of the ring, pawing the ground, almost begging to be put out of its misery. Moments later, it submitted docilely to the matador's fatal thrust and sank slowly to the ground.

Two fatalities were the product of that afternoon confrontation--the bull, and the young matador who died in a hospital from his wounds the following day.

Defenders of bullfights contend an animal's quick death in the ring is more merciful than its demise in a slaughter house. Only the end of life is not always so quick. Matadors' initial thrust of the sword frequently misses the fatal artery, causing further internal bleeding and a slow agonizing death. It should also be noted that in preparation for their appearance in the ring, bulls are frequently drugged, half-blinded, confined to unlighted quarters, and have pins inserted into their genitals to assure they are sufficiently "enraged".

It's time for bullfighting aficionados to concede that purposely inflicting torment falls far short of sport or a noble expression of courage.