May 18, 2013
Inching Away From Bullfighting and Its Macho B.S.
Posted on Aug 26, 2010
By T.L. Caswell
What’s at the heart of the unrest of the pro-bullfight set in Spain is fear that a trend is running against the tradition and that the endgame is approaching. In 1991 the Canary Islands banned the fights—if fights is indeed the right word for encounters in which one side almost always wins—and now a mainland region has turned thumbs down on the “sport.” (The term sport as applied to bullfighting, or the corrida, is frowned on by both bullfight supporters who insist that the activity is instead actually an art form and foes who maintain the activity is far outside the ethics and values of true sports. Hemingway wrote, “The bullfight is not a sport in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the word. …”)
One Internet article that argued against the Catalonian ban was headlined with the ominous question “Bullfights—The Beginning of the End?” and the Financial Times said: “[The] vote confirms a rising wave of opposition that could lead to a more widespread prohibition of the spectacle known in Spain as ‘la fiesta nacional’. … Although most older Spaniards are either indifferent to, or fans of, the sport, surveys show that a growing number of the under-30s oppose it, and cruelty to animals in general.”
The clicking that apprehensive lovers of bullfighting are hearing in the distance is the sound of falling dominoes. The aficionados are on the wrong side of history, and in their heart of hearts they know it. Look at the list of once-beloved blood sports that are now widely condemned or outlawed and, in some cases, considered unthinkable. Some have long faded from societal memory, although others persist at greatly reduced levels. A partial inventory:
• Bear-and-bull fights.
Also accepted and thriving in the United States and elsewhere are recreational hunting and recreational fishing, which are similar in some ways to blood sports and generally are motivated by the pleasure of finding and killing wild prey rather than by the need to obtain food for human survival. The recreational categories of course do not include tribe members and others who hunt or fish primarily to survive.
Catch-and-release fishermen may see themselves as guardians of morality as well as conservation, but in examining their practice, it’s hard to find nobility in torturing the object of desire for just a while before magnanimously letting it swim away.
Acceptance of sport hunting and fishing is bolstered by endless Norman Rockwell-like photos of families in magnificent landscapes and sweet stories of familial bonding on the banks of forest streams. Unfortunately, what’s pulling Dad, Mom, Junior and Sis together is a bit of good old-fashioned killing.
(As I finished writing that paragraph, I had a vision of being chased by a bunch of fisher-people and hunters hankering to have me gutted, stuffed and mounted. Of course, they would have to queue up behind a posse wearing cowboy hats and swinging thick ropes suitable for a hanging.)
In fairness, it must be noted that hunters and anglers help some animal species by providing funds, through license fees, for governmental wildlife programs. Also, hunting and fishing can benefit some types of animals by thinning populations that otherwise might perish because they would overwhelm available food sources, or by reducing the number of predators that feed on them.
Although they do love their rodeos, their hunting and their fishing, Americans can’t be accused of being worshipers of the bullfight. A Spanish-style, kill-by-sword bullfight was held in Dodge City, Kan., as part of a Fourth of July celebration in 1884, but the corrida never caught on in a big way among the gringos. Killing in rings is now illegal in this country (bloodless fights are permitted in California and some other states under certain restrictions), and most Americans have never seen a bullfight in person. For those who don’t know exactly what they are missing, here are a few highlights (I use the word loosely) from a sanitized primer on a Web page named—really—“Bull Fight 101,” at a site operated by a band of California enthusiasts called Club Taurino de Chula Vista.
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