BULLFIGHTING: THE FACTS

THE MYTH

BanderillasIt seems hard to believe that in this so-called civilised age, a most vicious and cruel spectacle of blood continues to flourish in Spain and certain other countries. Bullfighting is barbaric and should have been banned long ago, as bear-baiting was. It is difficult to understand how crowds of people will pay money and take pleasure in watching one lone creature - who has never done them any harm — getting hacked to death. How can anyone with an ounce of compassion, cheer and chant olé as a banderilla or lance is thrust into the animal’s pain-racked body?

Bullfighting has a very glorified public image — it is presented as a contest between the brave matador, who boldly risks life and limb to tackle a mad and ferocious beast. The matador is always dressed in a traditional costume of brilliant colours: the bullfight is seen by many as the mysterious ritual between man and beast, which is an integral part of Spanish culture and custom. For this reason, many tourists who visit Spain feel that seeing a bullfight is a necessary part of their holiday, just as tourists visiting Britain go to see the Tower of London.

However, after witnessing the sheer horror of this sickening slaughter, only the most hardened and callous would consider a second visit to the bullring. The purpose of this booklet is to fully explain what the bull has to endure, both during his last hour of life in the ring, and also the other side of the bullfight not commonly known to the vast majority of people: the pre-bullfight treatment.

THE PRE-FIGHT TREATMENT

PicadorsThe bull is not an aggressive animal, and the reason he is angry and attempts to charge at the matador whilst in the bullring is mainly because he has been horrendously abused for the previous two days. In fact, what spectators see is not a normal, healthy bull, but a weakened, half-blinded and mentally destroyed version, whose chances of harming his tormentors is virtually nil. The bull has wet newspapers stuffed into his ears; vaseline is rubbed into his eyes to blur his vision; cotton is stuffed up his nostrils to cut off his respiration and a needle is stuck into his genitals. Also, a strong caustic solution is rubbed onto his legs which throws him off balance. This also keeps him from lying down on the ground. In addition to this, drugs are administered to pep him up or slow him down, and strong laxatives are added to his feed to further incapacitate him. He is kept in a dark box for a couple of days before he faces the ring: the purpose of this is to disorientate him. When he is let out of the box, he runs desperately towards the light at the end of the tunnel. He thinks that at last his suffering is over and he is being set free — instead, he runs into the bullring to face his killers and a jeering mob.

THE “FIGHT”

Strictly speaking, a bullfight is composed of 3 separate “acts”, and the whole thing is supposed to last for 20 minutes, though in actual fact it varies. The opening of a bullfight begins with a tune being played on a trumpet — the tune is the special, signa lure Rifle which characterises the beginning of the horror. Upon entering the ring, bulls have been known to collapse through exhaustion alter their pre-fight ordeal — they have been dragged to their feet by the bullfighter’s assistants.

The Picadors

The sequence of events begins when the bull faces the picadors — these are the men on horseback, whose purpose it is to exhaust the bull. They cut into his neck muscles with a pica. This is a weapon of about 6-8 inches long, and 2 inches thick. Once it is thrust into the bull it is twisted round and a large, gaping wound appears. The bull then starts bleeding to death.

The Assistant Matadors

After the picador has finished his sordid business, the assistant matadors then get to work with the banderillas (sharp, harpoon-like barbed instruments). These are plunged into the bull’s body, and he may also be taunted by capes. Up to six banderillas may be used. When the banderillas strike the bull stops in his tracks and bellows madly.

Main matadorThe Kill

A trumpet signals the final “act” — in fact, during the whole nightmare, strange, slow tunes are played throughout. It is, of course, during the final act that the bull is killed (and hopefully goes onto a better life). The kill should last 6 minutes, and is done by the main matador. If he has any difficulties (which is an extremely rare occurrence), the others immediately rush in to his aid and finish off the bull.

THE FINAL DEGRADATION

The matador is supposed to sever the artery near the heart with one thrust of the sword — in fact, this never happens. It often takes 2-3 times before the creature is mercifully released by death. By this time, the bull’s lungs and heart will be punctured and he always vomits blood. Miraculously, he sometimes attempts to rise again, and gets up on his knees, only to receive further mutilation at the hands of his tormentors. He finally gives up, goes to his knees and lies down. Even then, he is not allowed a little dignity to leave this world in peace, his ears and tail are cut off (often when he is fully conscious), and his broken, bleeding body is dragged around the ring by mules, to which he is attached by an apparatus made of wood and chains. Not content with his suffering, which must be too horrible to describe by words, the crowds boo and jeer him. They even throw empty beer cans at him. His body is then taken away to be skinned, and even then he may not be dead when this happens.

HORSES

A horse being gored by a bullThe bull is not the only animal to suffer in the ring — hundreds of horses die long and agonising deaths as they are gored by the pain-crazed bull. Horses have their ears stuffed with wet newspaper, they are blindfolded and their vocal chords are cut so they are unable to scream in pain. It is not an uncommon occurrence for horses to stumble upon their own entrails after being badly gored. After a horse has been wounded it is led out of the ring, given crude surgery, and sent back in. Horses used in bullrings sweat and tremble from fear — they are forced to return to the ring time and time again. The picador’s horses are generally animals whose working life is over, and which are, therefore, old, infirm and docile. Their reward for serving mankind faithfully is to end their days in the bullrings. They are kept in poor conditions between fights, arid, not surprisingly, their life expectancy is short.

ARGUMENTS IN DEFENCE OF BULLFIGHTING

“But it’s part of their culture’ is the argument commonly used to defend bullfighting, but this argument is also used to defend female circumcision (genital mutilation). It could also have been used to defend witch-burning, bear-baiting and a multitude of other evils, “Culture” is not a magic word, and simply labeling something as such doesn’t make it right and above criticism. Also, the word “culture” suggests the enhancement and enrichment of people or a society, and watching animals being tortured to death doesn’t fall into this description.

Death“Get your own house in order” is another argument put forward, with reference to our own bloodsports such as hunting and harecoursing. Well, there is no reason why we can’t support the Spanish Animal Rights movement as well as fighting animal abuse in our own country. An animal doesn’t regard itself as being Spanish when it is being tortured to death — rather it is a member of the anima[ kingdom being tortured to death by humans. The Animal Rights movement is a worldwide one and should not be restricted by boundaries.

As has been mentioned previously, bullrings are largely sustained by tourists who visit out of curiosity and a misguided belief that if they fail to visit this unique part of Spanish culture, their visit to Spain will not be complete.

The vast majority of tourists are appalled by what happens at a bullfight and leave after they see what happens to the first bull (three separate bulls are killed at bullfights, but spectators are not allowed to leave until the first one has ended).

However, the purchase of their ticket keeps the bullrings open.

Spain is a popular holiday destination for British tourists, so for this reason a campaign in this country to educate people about what really happens at bullfights is a necessary and vital step towards closing down the bullrings.

Frank Evans from Manchester who runs a bedroom and kitchen showroom in Eccles called “Ladyline” is a bullfighter who regularly travels to Spain to torture bulls to death. This is another reason why bullfighting is an issue for the British Animal Rights movement.

The Anti-Bullfighting Committee, P.O. Box 175, Liverpool L69 8DX has started a campaign against Evans by demonstrating and leafletting outside his shop and his house. Anyone interested in joining this campaign should contact this address. Also, anyone wishing to express their views on Evans’ activities should write to him at:

19 Monks Hall Grove,
Eccles, Manchester

Also, please write to:

The Spanish Ambassador,
The Spanish Embassy,
24 Belgrave Square,
London SW1

There are now serious moves to have bullfighting banned as Spain is a fairly recent member of the European Economic Community, and has been under severe pressure from campaigning Animal Rights groups.

Dragged awayHowever the powerful lobby of bullbreeders are intent on evading this. In 1989 33,000 bulls died the death previously described, and this means profit for the bullbreeders.

A boycott of Spanish produce i.e. wine, sherry, fruit and vegetables would help persuade the Spanish Government to outlaw bullfighting.

Also, a boycott of Spanish holidays would be an excellent form of economic pressure as Spain relies heavily on the tourist industry.

The Spanish Green Party has announced its intention to ban bullfighting, if it were elected to Parliament.

In recent years, there has been a sustained press interest in the atrocities involved in bullfighting and fiestas involving animal abuse. This media focus has been not only in Britain but has caused worldwide concern. This has deeply embarrassed the Spanish Government who are under extreme pressure to change their laws. Also, it has made people in general more aware of the cruelties involved in bullfighting and the fiestas, and therefore less likely to visit bullrings.

It is only a matter of time before this abomination has ended, and bulls are allowed to live their lives in peace.