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Debate: Bullfighting

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Is bullfighting acceptable in modernity, or should it be banned?

Background and context

Bullfighting is a controversial sport in Spain. While supporters argue it is a cultural art form, opponents say that it is brutal and cruel toward animals.

Torture: Is it wrong to think of bullfighting as torture?


  • Bullfighting celebrates death and cycle of life. Robert Elms. "End bullfighting and you give in to the neutering forces of accepted taste." The Independent. July 31st, 2010: "Our squeamishness means that we prefer death which is mechanical and invisible, while the Spanish understand that it is part of a cycle.[...]This always potent and sometimes beautiful spectacle is the ritual slaughter of six truly wild animals for your entertainment. Matador just means killer. It is a public celebration of death (a subject we prefer to hide from in Britain) which, when it is done well, becomes a celebration of life. The man charged with the task of delivering a fine end to this fierce and powerful creature will dance with it along the way, laying his own life on the line to create a swirling symbiosis."
  • Life of bullfighting bull more decent than factory bull. Robert Elms. "End bullfighting and you give in to the neutering forces of accepted taste." The Independent. July 31st, 2010: "Those who see bullfighting as cruel are, of course, right. It is cruel that man should breed and kill animals for his enjoyment whether as a dinner or a dance. But to my mind the life of an Iberian fighting bull, a thoroughbred animal which lives to a minimum age of four, roaming wild, feasting on Spain's finest pasture, never even seeing a man on foot, is far superior to that of the many thousands of British bulls whose far shorter lives are spent entirely in factory conditions and killed in grim abattoirs so that we can eat beefburgers."
  • Bullfighting fosters an understanding of violent death. Ernest Hemingway: "The only place where you could see life and death, i. e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it. I was trying to learn to write, commencing with the simplest things, and one of the simplest things of all and the most fundamental is violent death."[1]


  • Bullfighting is an inhumane form of torture. Jeremey Bentham, Theory of Legislation. Principles of the Penal Code. "The Culture of Benevolence". 1802 - "Cock-fights and bull-fights, the chase of the hare and the fox, fishing, and other amusements of the same kind, necessarily suppose a want of reflection or a want of humanity; since these sports inflict upon sensitive beings the most lively sufferings, and the most lingering and painful death that can be imagined."[2]
  • Bullfighting is about entertaining a crowd's blood lust.
  • Horses suffer in bullfighting as much as bulls. Bullfighting "Bulls are not the only creatures to suffer in bullrings. The tormented bull does not understand that it is the man on the horse's back that is causing his pain, only that he is in agony. He therefore sees the horse as his enemy as much as the man. It's not unusual for horses used in bullfights to be so badly gored by the bulls that they have to be killed, but only after they have been dragged from the ring and the view of the spectators."
  • Bulls' horns may be shaved, making them very sensitive to pain.
  • Body parts may be cut-off while bull is still alive. "What's wrong with bullfighting?" League against cruel sports: "At the end of the fight, the bull may not be yet dead while his body parts are cut-off to be kept as trophies. Spanish bull breeders receive EU agricultural subsidies, meaning that UK taxpayers' money goes to support this terrible industry."
  • Bullfighting makes for a barbaric society. Eric Gallego, an animal rights protester, said in 2010 to the Times Online: “Bullfighting is a bloody entertainment. We must stop this cruelty because we don’t want to be a barbaric society in Europe.”[3]
  • Bulls can't reason, but they can suffer; bullfighting wrong. Jeremy Bentham once said: "It doesn't matter if they can reason; it doesn't matter if they can speak; what does matter is if they can SUFFER."[4]

Culture: Is bullfighting a cultural, artistic practice?


  • Bullfighting is "last serious thing in modern world." Poet Garcia Lorca said in the 1930s, the corrida is "the last serious thing in the modern world".[6]
  • Bullfighters are good heroes and role models for youth. In Spain, many youth idealize bull fighters for their strength, grace, and wit in outmaneuvering bulls.
  • Bullfighting has long historical and mythical roots. Bullfighting traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice. The killing of the sacred bull (tauroctony) is the essential central iconic act of Mithras, which was commemorated in the mithraeum wherever Roman soldiers were stationed. The oldest representation of what seems to be a man facing a bull is on the celtiberian tombstone from Clunia and the cave painting "El toro de hachos", both found in Spain.


  • Inflicting pain for the purposes of entertainment is wrong. International Movement Against Bullfights: "The truth is, if a creature suffers then there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. All animals are sentient beings that experience joy, happiness, fear and pain, in the same way that human beings do. We can have no right whatsoever to make them suffer for our "enjoyment". If any torture inflicted to an animal deserves condemnation, bullfights are the worst kind of torture since they are performed solely in the name of entertainment. We must end the animals' torture and stop these shows of brutality and violence. It is too small a step from the intentional infliction of pain on an animal to the torture and killing of human beings."

Fair fight? Is bullfighting a fair fight?


  • Bullfighting symbolizes man's mastery over nature.
  • More risks the bullfighter takes the better. The best bullfighters are the ones that come closest to the bull, letting its horns pass inches by the fighters side, etc. The greater the risk for the bullfighter, the greater the reward from the crowd. This pressure makes the fight more fair. The bullfighter is not trying to stay as far away as possible in order to make a riskless kill; they are trying to demonstrate their courage and bravery in the face of potentially fatal risks. As a New York Times 1931 interpretation of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises" puts it, "If the finishing thrust is properly put in, the matador must always be in such a position that if a gust of wind comes at the wrong time or if the bull suddenly raises his head the man will be gored. If no part of the spectators feels any morbid expectation at such crises a Spanish assemblage is different from other gatherings."[7]


  • Not a fair fight: gang of armed men against one bull. "What's wrong with bullfighting?" League Against Cruel Sports: "A bullfight is never a fair fight, as the confused and frightened bull faces a matador and several other men, some on horseback, armed with terrible weapons. Read more bullfighting facts."
  • Not a fair fight; bullfighters rarely injured/killed. "What about the "brave" matadors, picadors and their ilk? Bullfighters are rarely injured and seldom killed in the ring. With their armory of weapons to weaken the bull until it can no longer fight, their lives are not at great risk. In fact, in the last 50 years only 10 bullfighters have been killed worldwide."

Public opinion: Where does public opinion stand?


  • Majority on bullfighting shouldn't dictate end of tradition Robert Elms. "End bullfighting and you give in to the neutering forces of accepted taste." The Independent. July 31st, 2010: "The real danger of all this is that [the ban on bullfighting in Cataluna] will begin to convince those Spaniards who are agnostic about the bulls – which may well be the majority, in the same way that most English people don't much care for cricket but aren't remotely opposed to it – that the corrida is doomed to die a slow death, that inevitably it will fade away as Spain becomes more like everywhere else, dominated by gaudy globalism and neutered by the homogenising forces of technology and accepted taste. If the young start to believe that it is somehow terminally old-fashioned and moribund because those cool Catalans no longer like it, then the future of this vibrant and vivid culture really could be threatened. Of course it is an anachronism, a unique echo of more visceral and yet sensitive times, kept alive by the afició*of those who understand its tragic and compelling metaphorical power, including the many Spanish writers and intellectuals who railed against the ban."


  • Majorities in bullfighting states & elsewhere oppose it. "What's wrong with bullfighting?" League Against Cruel Sports: "Recent polls have shown that the majority of people are against bullfighting. 89% of British people would not visit a bullfight (ComRes 2008), whilst in Spain 67% are not interested in bullfighting (Gallup 2008). In France, 69% of people oppose public funding for bullfighting (YouGov 2009)."

Pro/con sources



See also

External links and resources

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