ANIMAL RIGHTS FOCUS: A positive view of bullfighting in Spain

In a controversial dispatch, expat bullfighting aficionado Lenox Napier argues the case for the corrida

LAST UPDATED: 17 Feb, 2016 @ 14:25

BullfightingAN 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.

Ronda's historic bullring
Ronda’s historic bullring

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.

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  1. what a deluded one sided view of from these barbaric cowardice people.

    it is, no matter how you dress it up, Animal cruelty…!!!!!

  2. It’s no good Lenox. You’re on a ground of shifting sand. The “culture” and friends you suck up to are in the wrong. It’s simply cruel, torturing an animal with spears in order to weaken it, so a coward in a fancy suit can then prance in, and, after tormenting the animal some more, can then (hopefully) dispatch it with a sword in it’s neck. All for the delight of a crowd of similar bloodthirsty, unfeeling cowards.
    Give it up matey and adopt rugby instead if you enjoy a bit of blood and guts. Now, that’s what you call a level playing field, and practiced by real men, not fops in fancy dress.

    • Bullfight is disguisting. These men are nothing but sick psychopates walking in clown costumes and torture an innocent defensless animal already tormented and abused, weakend days before entering the arena. These pathetic sadistic so called brave men would never survive a bullfight if the bull was not “prepared”, . This does not belong in modern civil society.

  3. What a terrible piece of badly formulated “journalism”, full of errors and assumptions. I know whose souls are shrunken, and it’s the authors.

  4. I doubt that a man in a pink pair of tights, facing a 1200 pound bull hurtling towards him is best described as a ‘coward’. Bulls can run faster than humans you know. Anyhow – there a bullfight coming up in Almeria on March 13th at midday, so if you like you can come and wave your frillies outside the gate telling the crowd that they are all cowards too.

  5. Going native, as Lenox suggests, does not justify cruelty to animals and, by extension, human cruelty. Neither does a list of literary notable, some of whom can not be said to be thoughtful, humane people. Its not just Ricky Gervais who is into piffle.
    Lenox said:
    1) Critics “…can’t accept the profound truth that, without death, there can be no life;.”and “This is Life, because Death is nearby.” These statements are ‘fillers’ for holes in leaky arguments: they sound profound, but are clichés.
    2) Fan fanaticism is not evidence of “profound truth” any more than are soccer hooliganism, gang fights and bar brawls: but they are ‘exiting’ in a reptilian way.
    3) “The crowd alone is worth a trip to the corrida.” True, if throwing undergarments and flowers to bullfighters maiming an animal is one’s idea of sport,‘culture’ and the finer things in Spanish life.

    Lets call bullfighting what it is without retreating to trite popular justifications or tortured post-modernist symbolic analysis:
    The facts are:
    Watching violence, cruelty and blood arouses ‘reptilian brain’ (human brain stem) processes which cause mind numbing hormones to take over higher brain functions to obliterate conscious and rational choice. As such bull fighting serves the same function as drunkeness, street drugs, perverse video games, risky and illegal sex, road racing and other dangerous physical activities.
    Its the so-called ‘adrenaline rush’ – the escape from reality – though in the case of watching cruelty and aggression, there are lasting brain and cognitive changes, as the brain reorganizes itself to take into account patterns of environmental, ‘expected’ contingencies of aggression and cruelty.
    That is to say, aggression and cruelty do, in fact, shape first the CNS, then cognition and finally behavior until violence, cruelty and aggression are seen as ‘normal’ or, at least, are justified as ‘harmless’, even leading to promotion of so-called ‘historic, valued cultural traditions.’
    Perhaps the high incidence of child abuse, drug use, alcoholism, animal cruelty and spousal abuse is related to the same high tolerance for cruelty and aggression demonstrated in contemporary Spain by persons supporting, among other activities, bullfights.

  6. Who do you think you are?… “me talking loftily about ‘art’, ‘culture’ or that fruity word ‘catharsis’.” Do you feel superior to the lowly expatriates that don’t enjoy the sight of a 14 year old child haplessly trying to kill a young bull that you claim lives such a happy long happy life in the dehesas of Spain before being dispatched by some cross dressing pansy?

    “Members of this last group are known as ‘antitaurinos’. They feel a pious pressure to inflict their arguments – sometimes violently – on everyone else”. I have attended MANY anti bullfighting protests, and I have NEVER seen violence perpetrated by the peaceful crowd that abhor the perverted satisfaction people like yourself gain from watching this cruel spectacle. The only violence I have seen is from the very people that attend these events. They are violent by nature and this is what attracts them to the bullring so as to get their sick kicks.

    You list the one or two artists and writers that have defended bullfighting, but omit the many others that have opposed it. These include Hans Christian Andersen, Alain Delon, Victor Hugo, Franz Kafka, Renaud, Rainer Maria Rilke, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Schweitzer, Mark Twain, and H.G. Wells.

    “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”……..Well whoopy do for you!!..PATHETIC! I can half understand why a child indoctrinated into cruelty by their parents grows up to believe that this is somehow normal behaviour, but for someone that has just taken to the torture and cold blooded murder of an innocent animal to try to be accepted by local people, I find deeply disturbing.

    I could go on about this awful piece of “fairytale journalism”, but what is the point. You are obviously attempting to draw attention to yourself. Most people that enjoy watching torture and killing have very low self esteems, you clearly fit into this category.

    The writing is on the wall, and thankfully this barbaric business will shortly come to an end.

  7. Chas,
    good post but you need to define ‘street drugs’ that term simply won’t do.

    All civilisations have used psychotropic plants to elevate the brain’s functions. Repressive regimes and mentalities don’t like ordinary people using them like the USA/UK. Christianity in all it’s sick forms especially so.
    Other than that an informative post that should be required reading for those with open minds.
    Red – another excellent post.

    Those not capable of Alpha state could be used for fish food to replenish the depleted stocks, it will do wonders for the biped numbers as well, all in all a win-win situation – what’s not to like.

    • Uncontrollable dependency, like alcoholism, is the issue. I would distinguish addictive synthetic or poppy based drugs that do physiological damage to the central nervous system (and body) and increase aggression, such as amphetamines, crack, cocaine, heroin, etc, from marijuana, peyote and psilocybin, though note that there are some people who are adversely affected by strong psychedelics. I would further distinguish between occasional use and habitual addictive use.

  8. ‘Somehow, they seemed to know I was British. Was it my tweed coat, the cut of my dentures… or was it the six-foot Union Jack, tied to me forehead?. I guess… I will never know’. The Goon Show.

  9. I have been attending anti bullfight demonstrations for years now and the sentence that struck me most in this ‘ article ‘ was : The crowd alone is worth a trip to the corrida. They are friendly, enthusiastic, vocal and generous. Aficionados as they are called are horrible, swearing, low educated people that like to drag their children with them to see innocent animals get humiliated and tortured to death. They are ‘ loud ‘ indeed and all the nasty swearwords are thrown at you, together with the middle finger. How many granny’s i have witnessed over the years shouting at us and making obscene gestures is beyond belief. I always feel ashamed for them. Yes, they are ‘ enthusiastic ‘ , what is not to like about a peaceful animal being stabbed and gored over and over again ? Crazy world, crazy people, too bad animals have to share this planet with us on it.

  10. it seems your answers have been answered Lennox…..lets put these barbaric cowards and yourself in with the bulls that are fit…one on one…..does it still sound appealing Lennox……desperate fool..!!

  11. The comments are terrific. Lennox (note the two ‘L’s) not so much. Yup, two ‘L’s in pillock, for sure. Glad to hear that 81 per cent of Spaniards want animal torture banned. Tough luck, Lennox, you’re definitely in the minority – bye bye.

  12. Red,
    an intelligent response. I would only let them enter the food chain after the meat, bones and blood had been irradiated to kill off all pathogens. The bones could be heated to the correct temperature and crushed for bone meal, an excellent multi-purpose fertiliser and dried blood an excellent organic nitrogen fertiliser – less bipeds, less pressure on resources and a much nicer atmosphere in which to live.

    Chas – an excellent response that should be required reading for those who spout off but know sod all about ‘drugs’. Nice to see you quite rightly put alcohol alongside heroin and cocaine. Alcohol is far and away the biggest killer both directly and indirectly and is responsible for so many murders,rapes, death on the roads and workplace ‘accidents’. The one narcotic you have omitted is nicotine which is initially far more addictive than heroin.

    I saw Europe’s young becoming smack addicted when I worked in the Netherlands at the end of the 70s’ and like the terrible cancer it is it quickly spread across Europe when the work ran out in the Netherlands.

    I also totally agree about psychotropics they should only be used as a learning tool nothing more. Those who are adversely affected always have mental health problems which sometimes remain hidden until triggered.

    I wonder how psychotropics would affect those little ‘men’ in funny clothes who murder bulls – a very bad trip perhaps and hopefully one from which they never recover.

  13. With Brexit there will be no more free healthcare for Brits in Spain. Can’t wait to see them scurrying back to the homeland like rats abandoning ship. Let them play their darts and crochet in Croydon, not in Spain.

    • “With Brexit there will be no more free healthcare for Brits in Spain”

      Say’s who Ed? First of all, there is no automatic free healthcare in Spain for working-age expatriates. People who work and pay in to the system get state healthcare. Expatriate pensioners have access to state healthcare, and that is unlikely to change as the expense is passed on to the recipients country of birth in any event. Best to research the subject before making yourself look like a numskull. Btw Ed, you don’t “play” crochet. Did you mean croquet? lol

  14. So what nationality are you Ed – I don’t know anyone who plays darts or crochet in Croydon or elsewhere – not a self loathing Brit are you?

  15. What a “debate.” Is nobody sitting on the fence? It´s like watching the Maginot Line and the Siegried Line trying to outgun each other. We seem to have a display of minds set in concrete.

  16. The most erudite and passionate comments against bull-torture I have ever read on an article.
    And the most fatuous, trite and self serving article by a transparent psychopath at that.

      • Lenox: Life isn’t geometry and numbers, its about living processes. Your comments are derived from ideology, ie, that money and numbers are the foundation of rational discourse. And speaking of a disagreeable non-rational load….