Bullfighting: A Tradition of Tragedy

by Natalie Monahan

December 9 - December 15, 1999

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Every year thousands of bulls are tormented and killed in Spain alone, and the numbers are still growing. Bullfighting is often described by the Spanish as "entertainment" or "art." Truly, bullfighting is a sickening, unfair blood sport resulting in the cruel torture and death of bulls.

The bulls used in the fight are senselessly teased, confused and stabbed before dying. Before the fight, the bulls' legs are smeared with a very strong acid that causes itching and burning, petroleum jelly is rubbed into their eyes to blur their vision, heavy weights are tied around their necks for weeks before the fight, they are confined in darkness for hours before being released into the bright arena, and their kidneys are severely beaten with sandbags to make them weaker and disoriented. Many well-known former bullfighters report that bulls are intentionally debilitated with tranquilizers and laxatives. After the bull fight, the bulls are then killed, and the next day they are sent off to a local butcher shop, where they supposedly "will make good meat." The list goes on about how the bulls suffer. It's not fair to them, and it must stop.

The average bullfight consists of many things. The matador, two picadors on horses, and three men on foot usually take part in the fights. All six of them stab the bull repeatedly as soon as he enters the ring. After the bull has been completely weakened by fear, blood loss and exhaustion, the matador "attempts" to make a clean kill with a sword to the heart of the bull. Unfortunately for the already suffering bull, the matador very rarely succeeds, and he must make several attempts, often just missing the bull's heart and piercing the lungs instead. Much too often, a dagger must be used to cut the spinal cord and spare the audience the sight of a defenseless animal in the throes of death. The bull may still be conscious but paralyzed when his ears and tail are cut off as the final show of "victory."

The bulls aren't the only victims of the vicious cruelty of the arena. According to Lyn Sherwood, publisher of an English-language bullfighter's magazine, horses used in bullfights are mistreated as well. The horses are "shot behind the ear with dope." The horses are blindfolded and knocked down a lot. These horses, who are often massacred, usually have wet newspaper stuffed in their ears to impair their hearing, and their vocal cords are usually cut so their cries do not distract the crowd. Fight defenders claim the horses are "saved" from the glue factory and slaughter houses, which means in turn that they are probably old, tired, weak plow horses who end up being knocked down by bulls weighing up to half a ton.

If you are planning to visit a country that permits or encourages bullfighting, tell your travel agent that you are opposed to animal cruelty in any way. Many tourist resorts in Spain have bullfight arenas as part of their recreational facilities. Instead, visit Tosse De Mar, which was the first town in Spain to ban bullfights.

Bloody or bloodless, bullfighting is a senseless, humiliating display that has no place in a civilized society, and you, with the help of others, can help put an end to this brutal "sport."

Monahan is an eighth-grader at Jefferson Middle School.

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