Bull Run and Bull Fighting: Tradition versus cruelty

Posted: July 17, 2012 in Welfare
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bull running is a highly controversial tradition that is said to have begun during the 14th century in North-East Spain. The bulls used for bull fighting would have to be herded from their overnight pens across the streets to the fighting arena in localities across Spain and over the years people started to join in and run in front of the bulls. This developed into the “sport” that is now witnessed in several towns across Spain and Portugal.

This year has seen a number of injuries in Spain’s largest bull running festival in Pamplona, including 2 British men and an American and an Irish man who got badly gored. 38 other runners got taken to hospital for a range of injuries. Luckily none of these injuries were fatal. The same, however, cannot be said for the animal participants.

During my final year at University I wrote a paper titled “Attitudes to non-human animals that were common in Britain in the 16th  century and how such attitudes had changed by the end of the 18th century”. The research for this included a lot of gruesome and unimaginable material outlining the harm and suffering caused to animals for sport and scientific purposes. We would like to think that in this century we are beyond all this but all over the world we still see the evidence of the cruel ways of past carried on down and justified due to “tradition”. The bull runs and bullfighting is one such questionable tradition.

The six, specially bred, fighting bulls that get let out onto the streets of Pamplona, a different group each day for a week, have only one destination – A drawn out and gruesome death. They are bred in fields where they have little human contact and are then moved into indoor enclosures when it is time for the festival to begin. Once let out the sunlight is almost blinding and confusion sets in while they are being coxed outside with electrical shocks to start them up. The whole thing, as you can imagine, is a stressful ordeal and many of the bulls getting injured along the run to the bull fighting arena where they will face even more trauma.

The bulls are sometimes weakened by means of drugs or are confused by shaving their horns before the start of the “fight”. This is followed by the entrance of the “picador” (a man on horseback bearing a sharp lance) who drives lances into the bull’s neck and behind the shoulder muscles to prohibit neck movement and induce bleeding. This is followed by a group of men chasing and teasing the already injured and weakened bull with “banderillas” (bright sticks with sharp harpoon ends). At this stage the bull is often unable to run anymore and is often reduced to crawling.

Finally the matador finishes the act by driving his sword down through the bull’s shoulder blades into its heart. They often miss and the bull has to endure more suffering by means of suffocating on its own blood. If the crowd are pleased with the matador the ears and tail are cut off and presented as a reward. This exact chain of events vary among towns however they are usually similar and always end with the same result: Death.

Is it all worth it? Should this tradition be allowed to continue?

In my opinion it is a tradition that should be left for the history books. True, it is a part of the local livelihoods and culture but the cruelty involved is barbaric and it is time to move on and follow in the footsteps of Catalonia who banned bullfighting last year. This is the 21st century and it is time that the word “tradition” is no longer accepted as an excuse for cruelty.

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