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Inching Away From Bullfighting and Its Macho B.S.

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Posted on Aug 26, 2010
AP / Alexandre Meneghini

By T.L. Caswell

(Page 3)

The first act concludes with the entrance of the “picadors”; the (usually chubby) guys on horseback. The picadors’ job is to weaken the bull’s very powerful neck muscle by enticing the bull to charge the heavily padded horses and then to pierce the neck muscle with a long lance. …

The second act concludes with the placing of the “banderillas” (the brilliantly colored short harpoons) into the bull’s neck and shoulders. This is done primarily for traditional reasons but practically to correct any tendencies for the bull to hook his horns to left or right. …

The third and final act … concludes when the matador trades his ceremonial sword for a real one and prepares to kill the bull. This is the most dangerous time for the matador since he must quickly lean in over the horns and find a very small target (about the size of the palm of your hand) to place the sword between the bull’s shoulder blades. If done well this event is over in seconds and the bull expires within a few minutes or less.

The website does not mention that the “heavily padded horses” have been used only since 1930. Before then, unpadded horses were ridden in the rings and they usually were disemboweled by the bulls, resulting in a greater death count among equines than among bovines. At the time the padding requirement was introduced, there were outcries that the reform would detract from the spectacle and lead to the demise of bullfighting, but there proved to be still enough blood flowing to hold spectators’ attention over the years.

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Some of that blood has issued at times from the creature on blunt end of the estoque, the killing sword. Fewer than five dozen matadors have been killed in Spanish-style bullfighting over the last three centuries, but injuries to bullfighters are common. In May, Julio Aparicio, one of Spain’s most famous matadors, was the victim of a grotesque goring, depicted in widely distributed photographs. (Sorry, no hyperlink here; Google it if you are up for the sight of a horn tip protruding from the flesh of an impaled man.)

In 2007, a then 14-year-old bullfighter almost died in a ring; undeterred, he went on to slay six bulls on a single February day this year. In June, a 22-year-old Mexican matador, deciding he was no glutton for punishment after being gored the previous month, ran from a Mexico City ring. “I didn’t have the ability, I didn’t have the balls, this is not my thing,” he said after he escaped from the bull. His candor did not prevent him from being arrested and fined for breach of contract. The management did not take kindly to the yellow streak exhibited at its afternoon “art” show.

The corrida-equals-art formulation—a common theme in bullfighting literature—appears at the conclusion of the “Bull Fight 101” Web page, which explains that the “bull is to the matador as a violin is to a violinist or a block of stone is to a sculptor. He is the living object that the matador uses to perform his art.” Given their druthers, bulls would probably eschew such an exalted role. Violins and blocks of stone, I’ve observed, seldom rage, froth, bellow, bleed, weaken and ultimately die with a metal shaft in their innards.

If there is anything about the Chula Vista group’s upbeat sketch of a bullfight that appeals to your artistic sensibilities, you might want to follow a hyperlink on its site that connects to the California Academy of Tauromaquia, at bullfightschool.com. The academy, which describes itself as “the nation’s first bullfight school,” says, “Classes are conducted … throughout the US and all over la planeta de toros.” The courses it touts may be just the thing for you if, to use the academy’s language, “you love adventure but find bungee jumping maybe a little bit mindless.”

For a thoughtful, literary description of a bullfight and a discussion of some of the issues surrounding the tradition, check out Alexander Fiske-Harrison’s 2008 article in Prospect magazine, “A Noble Death.” Fiske-Harrison, who has had training as a bullfighter, writes very well but he necessarily performs some fancy rationalization to avoid looking squarely at the prima facie brutality of the corrida.

Fiske-Harrison raises the interesting, and common, question of whether meat eaters are hypocrites if they oppose bullfighting, but he does not deal with the important element of motive. The imperative to fill one’s belly surely cannot rightly be equated with the wish to have an enjoyable afternoon. The person who buys a beef rump roast at a supermarket has bought dinner. The person who buys a ticket to a bullfight has bought a tawdry thrill (in my estimation), one that might include a soupçon of sexual stimulation at the sight of a slender young man wearing a tight-fitting “suit of lights,” arching his back, flaunting masculine domination, defying death and wielding a long, stiff instrument.

Those who hurl the meat eater/hypocrite accusation do have some grounds for their charge, but that does not make the arguments against bullfighting any less valid. 

Currently, Spain’s leading opposition party is pushing a legislative effort to officially enshrine bullfighting as part of the national culture, and thereby overturn Catalonia’s ban. Debate on the measure will begin next month.

Last March, in anticipation of Catalonia’s action, the Madrid regional government declared the corrida a “cultural value” and an art form and armed itself with the right to press huge fines against anyone who endangered bullfighting. At the same time, Madrid President Esperanza Aguirre, a conservative, called on the United Nations’ UNESCO to protect bullfighting as a Spanish treasure.

Ah, the desperation is deepening among those who hold to the old ways. Could it be that they feel the ground falling away beneath their feet? Perhaps some have seen the poll that found 60 percent of fellow Spaniards answering “no” to the question, “Do you like bullfights?” (In the same poll a similar percentage opposed the Catalonian ban.)


It’s time for Spain to move away from the mayhem and macho B.S. that pass for entertainment in the male-dominated bullring. To quote one woman who has the cojones to differ with her estimable husband about the value of bullfighting and who also rejects the argument that Spain needs active rings for economic reasons: “Making a bull suffer in the plaza for the public’s enjoyment while a few people do business? Let them do what they want, but I won’t share it.” Her name is Sofia, and she also answers to “queen of Spain.” Here’s hoping that many more Spaniards, and people in other lands, will soon share her disassociation from a repugnant industry that traffics in death.

T.L. Caswell was on the Los Angeles Times editing staff for more than 25 years and now edits and writes for Truthdig.


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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 30, 2010 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment

Nightmare:

You are in an abattoir and about to be turned into feed for cattle.

Nightmare:

Bees take over the world and make us labour to make them honey.

Shall we just ignore the facts of comparative neuroanatomy and ethology? Let’s pretend the bulls tell each other horror stories about what happens when they get shipped off to the ring.

Seriously. Children’s stories masquerading as argument to artificially elicit sympathy…

If you like bulls, great. If you don’t like Spanish bullfighters, fine. However, if you want to leave prejudice and fairy tales aside and genuinely improve animal welfare, before you start pointing fingers abroad, do something about the 27 million factory farmed drone-cattle badly slaughtered in your country every year so you can grow more obese and pump more methane into the Earth’s atmosphere. How about we start there?

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By gerard, August 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm Link to this comment

Nightmare:

Scene:  An arena in Texas crowded with beautiful bulls and their girl friends, mostly well-dressed and highly cultured.  No unrefined shouting or drunken brawls, just refined music appropriate to the occasion, with just a slight touch of tantalizing Spanish rhythm.
  Coming up through a passage roars a fine specimen of a two-legged bull, screaming:  “Let me out of here!  What did I do to deserve this?”  But to no avail.
  He is followed by a group of four-legged picadors and a matador in flaring cape, carrying between his two fore-legs a gleaming sword of hand-honed Manchurian steel recently adopted as the traditional killing instrument.
  “Ole!”  The crowd’s shout is almost a moan of anticipation.  If it sounds more like “Mwaaaah!” that’s because your ears are not tuned to the drama of the occasion.
  The matador taunts the two-legged bull trying to find refuge anywhere, somewhere, to escape his four-legged pursuers hoping to cheat death.  But alas!  to no avail.
  After what seems like a thousand years of running, the poor two-legged bull is out of breath and sweating profusely. The skillful matador charges directly at the two-legged bull who finds he cannot run fast enough anymore, even if there were a place to hide.  He is cornered, and after a dance that produces many minor cuts, he at last dies beautifully with a skillful coup de grace to the throat.  The audience roars. It has played with death courageously. 
  The poor two-legged bull bleeds to death in the hot sun.

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 30, 2010 at 5:54 pm Link to this comment

You make mine. We all will.

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By garth, August 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

Alexander Fiske-Harrison,

You make my point.

Corrida, Schmorida. Spanish or no spanish.  The bull is sent to die.  If you elevate death so much, why not try it yourself?

I heard from marines that it might not be the worst, just the last.

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

Garth,

“There is no winning in a corrida, the bull is sent into the ring to die. If that matador is rendered incapable of doing it, another will.”

Seems pretty clear in the post, no?

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By garth, August 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm Link to this comment

In the US we’d land on ‘em all.  We’d kill the bull, the matador, the picadors and all the fans and walk off with the gate receipts.

With Art ever-changing, one could argue that the SS saw art in all the Jews, Gays, and Gypsies crawling over each othet the moment they realized it was a gas chamber.

Or the stare of an elk the moment he’s shot when he realizes he’s been suckered into a trap.

How many bulls win?

And would the bull, given his druthers, pick a fight?

Why does the file footage lately show the bull trying to get the hell out of that hell hole?

I guess for the artful, those questions never arise.

Fuck MacIntyre!

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 30, 2010 at 7:07 am Link to this comment

The goal of the ‘corrida de los toros’ is not the death of the bull. That could be effected by the matador at any moment after it enters the ring with ease and relative safety using merely a single wide pass with the cape followed by a sword wound to a major organ through the side.

So what is it?

There are some matadors who do just try to overawe the crowd with the illusion of danger. They offer a mere thrill. However, these are usually low-ranking matadors, working in smaller rings in poorer areas. (With the notable exception of El Fandi who appeals to these sort of fans at the highest level with his impressive, if limited and repetitive, athleticism.)

The very best matadors, such as José Tomás and Morante de la Puebla, try to perfect the line of their body and profundity and slowness of their movements as they fulfill manoeuvres from the dance book of the ‘corrida de los toros’, all the while trying to get the bull as close to their bodies as possible.

They do this in order to “transmit emotion” to the audience, to inspire feeling. ‘Transmission’ and ‘emotion’ are two of the most talked about concepts among fans of the corrida in both English and Spanish (transmisión y emoción.) Dramatically speaking, the proximity of the bull, the danger of death for the man, is like the background music, highlighting the emotion. However, the content of the situation is the way the man executes the passes with cape and muleta, the sensation he brings to that with his manipulation of the bull, the fabric and his own body.

People may talk about emotion in the context of soccer or football, cricket or baseball. I have even heard them talk about ‘art’ in terms of boxing, but at the end of the day these are all secondary characteristics. It is all about winning. There is no winning in a corrida, the bull is sent into the ring to die. If that matador is rendered incapable of doing it, another will. Yes, a half dozen a year are pardoned for their ‘bravery’ (systematic, indefatigable aggression woud be a better description) but it is out of 35,000 who die. This is just the equivalent of a sculptor refusing to chisel into a block of marble because the natural shape and pattern of the veins are so beautiful he wants to display it as it is. The death of the bull is a necessary but incidental corollary of the bullfight (as it is for the hamburger). I’m not saying how the matador kills is not intrinsic, it is how the bull dies that I am talking about.

By definition, when the aim of a public spectacle is about inspiring of emotion by the following of a script, it is an art form. No matter how sick an art form you might find it. Whether or not you like or approve of a thing in now way alters whether or not it fulfills a definition, on pain of intellectual narcissism.

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By gerard, August 29, 2010 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment

Alexander Fiske-Harrison:  I don’t recognize my Christianity in your definition— “renunciatory, sexless, fleshless, shying away from life, belief in Heaven”. As you know, there is a lot of senseless baggage that passes for religious belief.  I deny all connection with such nonsense.  I also think such concepts had nothing to do with the original teachings of Jesus (though we have little proof of what he taught, actually) but such a vocabulary smacks more of the Church of Rome than of Christianity.
  In addition, I can only add that it is not a question of Archimedian points or perfectionism or 100% (and I too am a “liberal” whatever that is). It’s a question of not making another creature suffer for one’s own enjoyment or profit or comfort. Every exploitation is “justified” by some argument in favor of somebody’s “higher good.” Eating meat and using animals for scientific research are borderline areas prone to abuses. They are giving way slowly but surely.
  In the case we are discussing, I’m on the side of
the bull who, if he could speak, would say: “For God’s sake, stop it!  You’re killing me!”  And if I persisted, it would be a knowing denial of mercy and of his right not to be exploited for my sake or art’s sake or God’s sake or country’s sake,as in   all rituals of sacrifice. 
  It is significant that in the case of Abraham, God Himself is said to have “come down” and arrested the hand with the knife.  That in the case of Jesus on the Cross, God did not “come down” and arrest the Romans is the beginning of the “death of God” as we see it still playing out in every battlefield and jailhouse corporate headquarters in the world.  We must find the courage to defend and preserve life or we, too, will surely die—spiritually, mentally and/or physically. 
  I could go on, but suffice it to repeat that I am on the side of life here and now. I’ll settle for food, clothing and shelter, something resembling justice and peace in place of the sick chaos we have now. We can’t do everything, but we can do something to bring it about. Killing bulls is not one of those things.

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By Jimnp72, August 29, 2010 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

And PLEASE DONT EAT MEAT ANYMORE. with today’s food technologies, there are
plenty of meat subs that taste like the real thing, but without all of the
unimaginable sufferinG and cruelty involved
would you eat your cat or your dog? then dont eat any other meat either.

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By John C, August 29, 2010 at 7:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you don’t like bullfighting - Don’t watch it. It’s really that simple. I’d like my freedom to watch it.

While I can see why some people find Bullfighting disgraceful, it really is completely irrelevant. Human beings consume copious amounts of animal flesh everyday (especially in the United States), much of these animals are bred in conditions that make a Bullfight look humane in comparison.

The truth of the matter is that nature isn’t fair. We are now the most powerful species on Earth and we toy with Bulls like predators in the past toyed with our early ancestors. Do I claim that we can do whatever we want? Not really… What I’m saying is that it’s hypocritical to focus on a tradition that harms and causes less suffering than ‘food factories’ around the world. I would also like to point out that there’s also large amounts of Human suffering as well. Perhaps we should focus on bettering Human life before we start obsessing about Bulls? But that would probably make too much sense.

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By Pamela, August 29, 2010 at 5:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sadism, in my dictionary, is defined thus - “a perversion in which pleasure is obtained by inflicting or watching cruelty.”

As the majority of Spanish people are opposed to the cruelty of the bull torturing ritual,I live in hope that all the cruel spectacles will inch to oblivion before I do!

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 29, 2010 at 4:42 am Link to this comment

Gerard, thank you for that. Admirable sentiments from the perspective you take. I sometimes feel the same, but there is within me another, older ethic, which undeniably has its darkness (as my Viking ancestors did when they called war “the beautiful web of men” and blood “the sword’s water”). However, the humble, Christian ethic which attempted to replace it has a darkness no less destructive at its heart. For it is a renunciatory ethic, a shying away from life, from all earthly, a belief there will be a beautiful, clean, sexless and fleshless existence afterwards. It ignores the fact that, except for those that photosynthesise, all life exists by killing, tearing apart and reassimmilating that around it . And even plants compete for resources, shading and starving to death those around them. That we can rise above this is to our credit, that we can forget it is at our peril. The fracture within our moral code by the existence of these two warring ethics was well diagnosed by Prof. Alasdair MacIntyre at Notre Dame in his book ‘After Virtue’. The great problem with arguments between moralities, rather than within one, is that there is simply no way to arbitrate between them, no Archimedean point from which to judge. Which is why I am a liberal, and try not to judge (politically at least, ethically I am very judgmental) unless there are clear welfare issues. And here, there are not.

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By gerard, August 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm Link to this comment

Fiske-Harrison, I just had to smile over one of your sentences particularly, and I’ll tell you why.
  “The skydiver has courage, the hunter has craft and the racing driver technique, and they all exercise them in the face of Death. In fact, they use them to cheat Death.”
  I have a dear friend who was a skydiver for one day too long.  He happened to get caught in an updraft while “cheating death” and is now permanently brain-damaged.
  I had a young friend who lived for a couple years in northern Minnesota and during the hunting season he had to wear an orange jacket everytime he walked from the house to the road to prevent someone from shooting him by mistake.  Everybody did.  It was de riguer.
  As to race driving - my experience is confined to having written a published article once on the amount of pollution this “sport” pours into the clear blue sky every year. It’s amazing—but I’m not so sure how long we can cheat the death coming at us as a result of the fumes from that brotherhood of death-cheaters.
  But I wax sardonic.

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By gerard, August 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

Excuse me!  Do you have to cause pain (gracefully) and kill (gracefully) in order to “defy death” (gracefully?  What’s the ritual of killing all about anyway?  We see it not just in art but in life everywhere—the enjoyment of killing as performance.  It’s been going on every since persecution was invented. 
  Bravery requires us to live and let live—gracefully.  The cult of the tomb, the weapon, the coup de grace, the split stomach for the sake of honor, publicity and restitution, capital punishment, war—all of it is man-made and largely man-supported exhibitionism dolled up as “art” or “expertise” or “courage” or “grace” or dominance.  As far as I am concerned it is anti-life, anti-art, anti-humane.
  Regarding bull-fighting, Spaniards and other officiandos are culturally prejudiced.  All cultures maintain and promote specific, “time-honored” prejudices.  Spaniards are not sadists anymore than Americans who raise cattle in punishing circumstances and go to war regularly on a grand spree of killing are sadists. They have learned to ignore what they do—ignore cruelty by calling it something else, like “art” or “necessity” or “a higher cause.”  In this we all may have something in common with the bullfighter.We disguise our faults for as long as possible—from ourselves and from each other.  However:
  You say:  “What people outside Spain will never understand is how rebelious in spirit, how contemptous of tradition, how modern in its futility is this attempt to create art in the shadow of Death.” The human race is at the point where it can no longer “play” with the shadow of death. The entire breed stands within a stone’s throw of extinction and now must begin to sustain and recreate a love of life to save itself.  It must enhance the possibility of life over death, on earth, right here, right now. 
  To the extent that it exhibits cruelty and ignores or glorifies the pain and death of either man or bull, the bull fight indicates that it is passe. It speaks not only a foreign language but a spirit divorced from mercy, compassion and the life of the human spirit.
  We are learning slowly—but we are learning. And we will continue to learn or we will be extinct.

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By catherineturley, August 28, 2010 at 11:32 am Link to this comment

it’s not art or culture, it’s a cancer. 
and it’s as far from brave and noble as you can get.
lightweights don’t fight heavyweights because that’s not a fight.  real men and women fight even matches.

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By garth, August 28, 2010 at 8:38 am Link to this comment

By Queenie, August 26 at 2:44 pm   [Picture of a Cat]

“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do also unto me.”

And, yes. All god’s creatures are our brothers (and sisters.)
———————————————————-

It’s true.  There is a power that the supposed powerless have over brutish humans.  The pain of conscience kept alive by a memory.  It’s part of the bill for being human.

“And, yes. All god’s creatures are our brothers (and sisters.)”

I agree.

Cats for example have a God.  They call him ‘Ralph’.

Whenever, I pick up my 15 year-old female Angora, she cries, “Ralph!”

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 28, 2010 at 3:33 am Link to this comment

Gerard, you are quite wrong about what is ‘enjoyed’ in the bullfight (or do you really take the strangely xenophobic stance that millions of Spanish are just sadists?). The audience no more revel in the damage to the bull than meat-eaters revel in the slaughterhouse. My most important point you ignore, though, is that 90% of meat-eating IS entertainment and has a nutritionally negative value. Ask anyone in television why cooking programmes sell so well on both sides of the Atlantic.
One must rise against one’s own prejudice. The French eat horses, and I love horses and find that horrible. I would NEVER seek to ban it, and recognise my dislike as a prejudice, horses being little more intelligent and similarly social to cattle, placing them on roughly the same level on the Chain of Being.
To give you a glimpse of WHY people watch the bullfight, here are the (translated) words of the Spanish writer and thinker Gabriel Avalos:
“The skydiver has courage, the hunter has craft and the racing driver technique, and they all exercise them in the face of Death. In fact, they use them to cheat Death. The bullfighter goes one further, he treats Death with contempt, unworthy of even being cheated, because when it comes upon him, he ignores it and seeks to make art. He invites it to dance with the flick of the cape and every time it moves to embrace him, it finds only mocking air. The bull - man’s sustenance, man’s clothing and man’s burden-bearer - serves one more purpose here, and is now the avatar of Death. The matador who does not love the bull who lets him create this beauty is not an artist at all, and can at best only produce dry exercises: paintings by number. What people outside Spain will never understand is how rebelious in spirit, how contemptous of tradition, how modern in its futility is this attempt to create art in the shadow of Death. The modern bullfight is less than a hundred years old, dating from Belmonte’s ‘alternativa’ in 1913, an event which shattered bullfighting’s connection to the gladiatorialism that went before him. That same year, Stravinsky debuted his ‘Rite of Spring’ in Paris and Picasso opened his first exhibition of cubist work in New York.”

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By expat in germany, August 28, 2010 at 3:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To ickenittle,
There is an entire field in anthropology that studies your question, and the roots of human male violence, like the roots of most human behavior, can be traced to our evolutionary history. This is a great simplification, but if you believe that the most primitive purpose of a human life is to create another human life, i.e., to leave one’s genes in the next generation, then male violence can be understood as a “strategy” to increase one’s chances of leaving more genes. There isn’t a direct correspondence between that goal and watching or participating in a bullfight, of course, but one can see how “acting manly” might attract females and demonstrate the “quality” of one’s genes.

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By gerard, August 27, 2010 at 8:16 pm Link to this comment

The comments by Harrison are knowledgeable and interesting.  However, pointing out the extreme cruelty of the commercial meat industry does nothing to justify the Spanish pastime, sport, art, whatever it is.  It’s a cruel blood sport where injury and death are “enjoyed” for the act of inflicting pain and harassment.  The fact that it’s regarded as an art or a dance doesn’t make it any less cruel.  I can’t reconcile human kindness to the torture of animals in any case, but in a way, for “sport” or “entertainment” or whatever the attraction can be called, dressing it up in “justifications” makes it even more repulsive.

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By PatrickHenry, August 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

I guess in todays labor market training in another field is a necessity.

I have watched a bull fight once while vacationing in Mexico, it wasn’t all its made to be, a cultural thing.

I’m sure many cattle headed to slaughter would like to trade places with the ‘Toro’ and a chance for some pay back.

Better to die on your feet than on your knees.

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

@PatrickHenry

Bullfighting is not some sort of battle between man and bull. A fifty percent mortality rate on either side is not the desired result. This is because bullfighting is not a sport. It is written about in the cultural pages in Spanish newspapers, and the suffix ‘-fight’ is an English invention, no such connotation existing in the Spanish taurine vocabulary. If it is a contest, it is metaphorically so, like the contest between man and mountain in rock-climbing. Is that an even contest? I don’t think that question even makes any sense. This is not gladiatorialism: it is a tragedy, and the task of the bullfighter is to deal with the bull in a manner which transmits that, finishing as cleanly and bravely as he can. He regulates his level of danger as an actor modulates his voice and physical behaviour. Bullfighters don’t get gored because they can’t avoid it. They get gored because they are deliberately trying something their skill, or the bull’s temperament, cannot support. Just as sometimes an actor will overreach his ability or try something the script will not bear.

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By PatrickHenry, August 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

Lets make the fight fair and give the bull a gun.

If the bull is headed for steaks and hamburgers, it should get a fighting chance.

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 27, 2010 at 11:03 am Link to this comment

My compliments on your prose and balance. However, I should point out that although I now train as a bullfighter, when I wrote the article you mention I had only seen 6 bullfights, spoke no Spanish and had never met a bullfighter nor breeder. I merely used what I could find in English, i.e. Hemingway and Kenneth Tynan pro-bullfighting, A L Kennedy and Adrian Schubert, who are neutral, and the websites of the League Against Cruel Sports and PETA against it. That and undergrad work in biology and postgrad work in ethics at the Universities of Oxford and London.
There are things I would change about the article and have far better views of the ethics on my blog. I think the most important point for the US reader is this:
“In terms of animal welfare, the fighting animal lives four to six years whereas the meat animal lives one to two. What it is more, it doesn’t just live, it *lives*. Those years are spent free roaming in the ‘dehesa’, the lightly wooded natural pastureland which is the residue of the ancient forests of Spain. It is a rural idyll, although with the modern additions of full veterinary care and an absence of predators big enough to threaten biology’s answer to a main battle tank. By contrast, according to a recent book by Jonathan Safran Foer, 78.2 per cent of beef cows in US are raised on factory farms.
As for the humane death one might hope was the sole upside of factory farming, here is Safran Foer’s analysis of the US abattoir system which kills 34.4 million cattle a year:
‘Let’s say what we mean: animals are bled, skinned and dismembered while conscious. It happens all the time, and the industry and the government know it. Several plants cited for bleeding or skinning or dismembering live animals have defended their actions as common in the industry and asked, perhaps rightly, why they were being singled out.’
The reason for the horrifying cruelty is simple: this is an industrialized process with tight deadlines and even tighter profit margins. So, although the bolt gun which shoots a metal rod into the animal’s brain is meant to kill it outright, ‘sometimes the bolt only dazes the animal, which either remains conscious or wakes up as it is being ‘processed’.’ Processing involves the animal being hoisted it into the air by a chain around a leg so its throat can be cut. As one slaughterhouse worker put it, sometimes ‘they’d be blinking and stretching their necks from side to side, looking around, really frantic.’ From here, the head is skinned and the legs below the knee are removed. Some are still awake at this point, as the interviewee continued:  ‘As far as the ones that come back to life. . . the cattle just go wild, kicking in every direction.’
It is worth noting that the reason for this horror is entertainment, pure and simple: it is so that someone who ‘fancies a burger’ can have one. It is certainly not for any nutritional reason, in fact, given the obesity crisis in the western world, it has a negative nuritional value. To say nothing of the environmental costs of intensive cattle farming in terms of both the land itself and climate change. (Fighting cattle farming is the most extensive form in the Western world.)
I am not in any way saying that two wrongs make a right. What I am saying is that the bullfight only shocks you if you lie about what you are already doing. Of course, if you really think bullfighting is wrong, then I am pointing out that you are like ante-Bellum Virginia plantation owners complaining about sweat-shop working conditions in India. My main point, though, is that whilst you may question the virtue of people who wish to watch bullfights, in liberal democracies, WE DON’T LEGISLATE FOR VIRTUE. If the bullfight dies because no one likes it, then fine, let the market decide. However, it is actually cowardice about the truth of your position to insist on lobbying politicians to ban it.

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By ickenittle, August 27, 2010 at 10:30 am Link to this comment
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For the life of me, I will never understand the violence in male culture. Can someone explain just what torturing an animal does to make a man feel more manly?
The world is plagued with these manly displays, everthing from killing male tigers for their penises, to the low life hunter who shoots coyotes for fun. Just what are all of you men lacking?
I’m just grateful the world is not enirely made up of such men. We need all the kind men we can get.

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By berniem, August 27, 2010 at 10:03 am Link to this comment

If I were a betting man, judging by what passes for entertainment in the US these days, I’m sure that as soon as this “sport” or whatever they call it in Spain is outlawed, our ever so cultured nation will adopt it in a heart beat. After all one must take advantage of a golden opportunity in this free market Mecca. Also, its more exiting than watching wolves get shot from helicopters and not everyone can afford to go to a private slaughter farm like that fearless hunter, cheney!

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By plenum, August 27, 2010 at 4:26 am Link to this comment

Great article. 

Watch “Earthlings” for more info on the relationships Man has with Animals.  We can do better… 

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6361872964130308142#

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By gerard, August 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment

And a lot of human beings are unthinking creatures of habit.  “We’ve always done it, for thousands of years; therefore it’s unavoidable, part of human nature, an art form, a money-maker—whatever.” Blah, blah!

Can we please please crawl out of the ditch and try kindness, mercy, nurturing, protecting, helping?

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By Hammond Eggs, August 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment

Among those outraged by the decision was the Catalonian poet Pere Gimferrer, who proclaimed it “the worst attack on culture since our transition to democracy.”

Matador Serafín Marín struggled unsuccessfully to hold back tears as he slammed what he termed a product of dictatorship. He went on to defend bullfighting by saying: “It is not a cruel show. It is a show that creates art. …”

A lot of humans certainly are a rotten, crazy bunch.

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By kerryrose, August 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

godistwaddle

Maybe you forget that the prime abuser and torturer and King of Cruelty Mr Christopher Colombus (who we still celebrate) was a Spaniard.

Spain had the honor of initiating the Americas with cruelty.

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By Queenie, August 26, 2010 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do also unto me.”

And, yes. All god’s creatures are our brothers (and sisters.)

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By Alexander Fiske-Harrison, August 26, 2010 at 10:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Come and have a look at my blog, ‘The Last Arena’, and read the second post, The Rights and Wrongs of the Bullfight, for another view.

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By garth, August 26, 2010 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

They should have an arena for Capitalists versus those they swindled.

The Romans did it, and since we are going backwards, let’s do it right.

Robert Rubin among others of Wall Street noteriety would go against any one of the mob.  In full view of all the spectators. 

In a fight, there is an usually an edge that ascribes to the morally superiour. 

Emotional cleansing is what I’d call it. 

You don’t eat where you shit.  And these Wall Street people have taken a smelly defecation where we, the investors, the true believers in capitalism, have placed our retirement and lunch money.

Good for the bulls!  Replace them with American, laissez-faire Capitalist.

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By glider, August 26, 2010 at 9:01 am Link to this comment

Perhaps it would be better to require everyone who eats meat (and I am a confirmed daily carnivore) to watch either a bullfight or footage of a slaughter house in action at least once a year.  Why should sanitizing and isolating oneself from one’s actions be a good thing?  In reality it an enabler of evil activity.

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By gerard, August 26, 2010 at 7:37 am Link to this comment

“That rapping, rapping at your chamber door is the 21st century wanting to come in. You are clinging to a savage throwback that sees merit in tormenting animals, that finds virtue in a toxic mix of blood lust and male preening.”
  War is the same thing only humans are the victims by the tens of thousands, including innocent women and children.

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By FRTothus, August 26, 2010 at 7:14 am Link to this comment

Such self-righteousness!  Such hypocrisy!  Godistwaddle is spot on, except the barbaric US STILL tortures animals AS WELL AS human beings.

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By PatrickHenry, August 26, 2010 at 3:39 am Link to this comment

A move in the right direction.

The only ‘bull’ fighting I engage in is here at truthdig.

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By godistwaddle, August 26, 2010 at 2:42 am Link to this comment

Perhaps Spain will emulate the U.S., graduating from the torture of animals to the torture of humans.

(I’ll bet y’all have noticed Barry ain’t pursuing our war criminals.)

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