AN article in favour of bullfighting, they said.
It’s not going to persuade anyone who hates it to open their minds, or to give it a chance, I answered.
Those who have their ideas made up about ‘animal cruelty’ or ‘Spanish stone-age traditions’ aren’t going to be swayed by me talking loftily about ‘art’, ‘culture’ or that fruity word ‘catharsis’.
Many British residents in Spain have been ‘got at’ by their white-bread diet of satellite television and entertainers of the standard of Ricky Gervais, who makes his name by publicly playing with puppies and repeatedly announcing that anyone who doesn’t follow his wholesome lead is an utter shit.
In Spain, we have those who like the toros, those who don’t like the toros, and those who don’t like those who do like the toros.
Members of this last group are known as ‘antitaurinos’. They feel a pious pressure to inflict their arguments – sometimes violently – on everyone else.
So, what’s the point of rolling out artists who loved the bullfight – Picasso, Orson Welles, Goya, Dalí, Hemingway and the the poet Garcia Lorca to name just six.
Or the south American author and hero to many, Gabriel García Márquez – the man who wrote 100 Years of Solitude – who famously once said, ‘I’m a Nobel Literature Prize Winner and I love the toros. You: you who fancy yourself an antitaurino… what do you know of culture and tradition?’
What’s the point when you have already made up your mind – or had it made up for you?
Joaquin Sabina, Spain’s top folk singer, said just last week, ‘I think there is a lot of ignorance among the antitaurinos and a lot of scorn over a thing which has lasted for centuries and which can be absolutely supreme: a metaphor for life and death’.
Perhaps that is part of the antitaurino problem – they can’t accept the profound truth that, without death, there can be no life.
So: to the Bullfight. I go sometimes with my friends and my companions, all Spaniards. I am a part of this culture and spend much of my time speaking Spanish, reading, watching, living the vida española. Thus, I do Spanish things and, naturally enough, enjoy this wonderful country and its people to the full.
In my province of Almeria there are sixteen bullrings. Some are modern or large city rings, others are small and a couple, I am sure, are no longer in use.
I might join a group of friends to see a novillada – free to the public, where the young and inexperienced (sometimes as young as 14) will buy a bull and rent the bullring – all for one expensive shot at getting the magic right.
Another time, we might go to see some of the stars of the bullfight: the matadores. There are people who treat them the same way as we used to treat The Beatles or David Beckham. With adulation. One young woman of my acquaintance knows all of the bullfighters: their names, colours, favourite pases (moves) and so on. She keeps photographs of herself posing with some of these heroes of hers.
The crowd alone is worth a trip to the corrida. They are friendly, enthusiastic, vocal and generous. You will be lent a cushion to sit on, given a beer or a sandwich or a squirt of warm red wine from a goatskin bota.
You will see, together with a few thousand others, astonishing acts of bravery, of skill and an indifference to danger, to injury. This is Life, because Death is nearby.
Do the onlookers like to see the bull suffer, and die? No. Many turn away from that moment.
Are they cruel? Again, no. Death accompanies us all – I think that the Spanish are tolerant of this finality.
The crowd, so noisy during the spectacle, leaves quietly and goes home. There is no truculence or fighting or drunkenness, like after a football match.
A corrida is a social affair. The whole family comes, from small and noisy children to gouty old grandparents dressed in black.
There is an industry behind bullfighting. Many jobs and much money are involved. The raw material, the fighting bulls known as los toros bravos, are extraordinarily well looked after – if you like – because they are expensive.
They will live free range on giant farms and will be brought to their destiny when they are four or sometimes five years old.
Contrast this with a bullock taken from a small pen and killed by an electric bolt to the head at 18 months or less… just to make you a nice sandwich.
Will bullfighting ever be stopped in Spain by the well-meant interference of those with shrunken souls? Not in our lifetimes.
To ban or not to ban?
A QUARTER of Olive Press readers would not ban bullfighting, a poll has revealed.
In the online survey of over 300 users, the other 75% said they would ban the ancient tradition which is popular across Spain.
It comes after a survey of Spanish people found fewer than one in five now support bullfighting.
It showed just 19% of Spaniards aged between 19-65 back the custom, down from one third in 2013.
Attendances have also dropped by 54% in the past seven years.
On February 9, the Balearic Islands voted in a landmark ban on all forms of bullfighting.
The amendment to the Animal Protection Law also prohibits any event which causes suffering to an animal and pressures the national government to eliminate public funding of bullfighting.
Last year, eight men died across Spain after being gored by bulls during festivals.