In Spain, bullfighting is a significant part of the culture. The tradition has been continued for centuries, and to many Spaniards, it does not seem like it is going anywhere.
Bullfighting is a performance held between a professional Matador, and supposedly the most powerful animal in the Mediterranean, the bull. These performances are held between spring and autumn, and attract massive crowds. In the beginning, Cuadrilla, the entourage of men on horses, equipped with deadly barbs and harpoons, called Banderillas, slowly maim the bull until there is so much blood loss the bull is too exhausted to move. After the bull is sufficiently exhausted, the Matador enters the scene. Matadors are generally outfitted with skin-tight traditional clothing with many colors, and a sword used to kill the bull. The Matador pierces the sword through the neck of the bull, and the festivity is over. This is the “moment of truth”, as Earnest Hemingway put it.
Despite bullfighting being a staple in Spanish culture, and it being a tradition that millions support, there are severe moral and ethical issues that underlie this subject. In the arena, the bulls are pushed to the point of exhaustion, before facing their imminent doom at the hand of the Matador. The bull’s sense of hearing is drowned out by the thousands of unknown faces that hoot, holler, and applaud the inescapable, sword-wielding man that is the cause for its last breath.
Below is a photo of a Matador flagging a bull with Banderillas in its back.
Below is a photo of a Matador ready to deliver the final blow to a bull.
The argument that bullfighting should continue because of tradition is obsolete. There are plenty of examples of unethical activities that took place because of tradition, like slaughtering every city inhabitant that stood in the way of the Mongol Empire’s conquests. Instead of blindly following our ancestor’s traditions, it is important to stand up for what is the more ethical decision. In an article about bullfighting ethics by Prindle Post, Gabriel Andrade wrote that, “Many horrible things have been deeply enshrined in tradition (slavery, child marriage, female genital mutilation, etc.), but that in no way justifies them”.
While it may seem like a fair comparison to put Spanish bullfighting and the Roman Colosseum on the same level of morals, upon further inspection, it is clear that even the Colosseum had some values that outshine bullfighting. Every single bull that is brought into the arena is faced with certain death, and there is no way around it. Even if the bull gets the upper hand on the Matador, and can potentially hurt him, a horde of people will come out onto the arena to aid the Matador, and quickly end the bull’s hope to survive. On the other hand, within the Colosseum, most fighters were given equal chances, and if they won the fight, they could live to see another day. That arena hosted some of the bloodiest shows in human history and displays the worst of human desire and cruelty, yet almost every fighter that stepped foot into the arena, had a chance to win, and had a chance to survive. A bull in a bullfighting arena cannot expect the same, it was as good as dead before it even entered the show. By no means are Roman gladiator fights being glorified, but in the comparison of the ethics of bullfighting, gladiator fights shine brighter.
Stand up for what is right and stand up for the bulls. Together, the bulls can be saved.