Bullfighting; what do you think?
How it all began.
The tradition of bullfighting in Spain.
Bullfighting has existed in Spain for centuries. The bull was revered and even worshipped as a divine being before the Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula. Some sources say that it was the Romans and in particular Julius Caesar who introduced the idea of the fight with the bull into Spain in 63 BC. It wasn't however till the thirteenth century that bullfighting in Spain began to evolve. It was then later in the eighteenth century when it began to develop into the tradition that we recognise today.
Ancient Roman Sacrifice
What happens in the bullring?
This is a spectacle or tradition in which a fierce bull (toro bravo) is let loose into a bullring, in the style of a Roman arena (in Spanish ‘arena’ means ‘sand’. The arena is usually covered in sand). The bull is slowly - but some will say ‘skilfully and artistically’ - goaded, teased and generally confused by a group of ‘ picadors’ (assistants to the main bullfighter) who poke, pinch and tease the bull. When the bull is completely exhausted, but also enraged and desperate, the “matador” (literally: killer) appears. The aim of a good 'matador' is to directly pierce the heart of the confused bull in the final act of the performance. The bull should fall to its knees and die instantly.
Eighteenth century image of a bullfight
Development of the tradition of bullfighting
Throughout the Middle Ages the contest of 'man versus bull' was developed as a symbol of bravery and of course machismo. The Middle Age noble is often portrayed as “showing off” in order to win the lady’s hand, although more likely the fight was more to show physical prowess and bravery to one’s peers or enemies; such were the times.
What happens at the end of the bullfight?
It is interesting to note that at the end of a bullfight it is the public who ‘judge’ the performance of the fight. If the bull has been killed cleanly and fast without suffering the bullfighter is applauded and appreciation is shown. The public wave white handkerchiefs to show their opinion if the fight was ‘good’. Then it is up to the President of the bullfight to adjudicate the final analysis and all wait expectedly for the judge to make his pronouncement. (I can imagine Roman emperors giving the thumbs up or down sign for the poor bull!)
Depending on the performance of the bullfighter, he may be awarded one of the bull's ears, two ears, two ears and the tail, or on the rare occasion, he may be lifted onto the shoulders of his 'team' and carried out of the main grand doorway in the style of a great hero!
The bull gets to fight back!
Over the last three hundred years, five hundred and thirty three professional bullfighters have been killed in the bullring.
What do you think about that?
Ernest Hemingway supported the tradition of bullfighting when in Spain:
he wrote: "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death".
Where has bullfighting been banned in Spain?
AREAS OF SPAIN IN WHICH BULLFIGHTING HAS BEEN BANNED
There are two regions only in which bullfighting has been banned.
Canary Islands. (Capital city: Las Palmas de Tenerife)
One part of Spain that has very little tradition of bullfighting is the Canary Islands. This is because of the rural land on the island being very limited and cattle farming has never been well developed. Bullfighting was officially banned in 1991 with very little controversy.
Catalonia. (Capital city: Barcelona)
The banning of bullfighting in Catalonia came into effect on January 2012. This caused a lot of controversy in the Spanish press at the time.
Click on the link below for more details of bullfighting in rest of Spain.
You are either for it or against it. There is a grey middle ground that some attempt to tread but generally It is such a controversial issue here in Spain at the moment.
There are several 'pros' and 'contras' to be considered but what I have found is that all the Spanish people I have spoken to NEVER change their opinion even when learning new facts or listening to new arguments. I think this must be something that the Spanish are born with. Whoever I have spoken to will always have a clear answer, an opinion. No one ever has to think twice about their answer.
Pros and Contras
Having spoken to many Spanish friends about the subject over the years, I have summarised below what I have learned about the pro and contra arguments. Needless to say some Spaniards have been in favour and some Spanish people would be happy to see it banned completely.
Some people find this to be an elegant art-form
Argument supporting bullfighting
- Some supporters believe this to be a true art form. Professional bullfighters are true athletes who train hard. They must show grace and elegance in the bullring and success is not simply measured by the death of the bull. The ‘crowd’ is very demanding and a torero has to work hard to maintain a good reputation. The 'torero' has to show a blend of bravery, style, grace, posture, agility and even respect to the bull.
- “Toros bravos” are fierce bulls especially chosen early on in their life and are reared for four to six years in special pastures in a relatively privileged environment as opposed to normal cattle for slaughter whose life is approximately between one to two years only. The argument here is that these bulls have better 'qualityof life'.
- Centuries of tradition which has created its own ‘tauromaquia’ (bullfighting world) culture. The beautiful ‘torero’ suit, hat, cape, sword, some of which have become highly valued items over the centuries. Needless to say this is an event that moves millions of Euros every year.
- Many argue that the bull would be slaughtered anyway for food and at least this way the bull dies on 'centre stage' in a dignified manner.
- There has developed a great musical and literary tradition around this Spanish custom .
Somepeople want to ban bullfighting throughout Spain
The argument against bullfighting
- The major counter-argument on the detractors' side is a simple basic argument. It is the perception of the cruelty to the bull. The goading, teasing and eventual death of the bull is inhumane and humiliating for this, or any living creature.
- The great pomp and ceremony surrounding the tradition is simply a cover-up for what is finally going to be the murder of the animal for pure ‘fun’ or ‘entertainment’ of the crowd. Simply because it is a tradition is no reason why it is a valid tradition in the twenty-first century. There are examples of many other barbaric traditions that we as mankind supported in the past but have now abolished. Why should bullfighting not be one of them?
- The bullfight is always going to be unfair and so not a ‘sport’ in the true sense. The bullfighter is armed and has a big support group to aid him in his ‘fight’ with the bull. The bull is at complete disadvantage.
Scroll down to take the poll and leave your comments below
The two areas which have banned bullfighting in Spain
Hemingway enjoyed the tradition.
Hemingway in Spain
"Anything capable of arousing passion in its favour will surely raise such passion against it." Ernest Hemingway, Spain, 1932
Hemingway describes the Spanish bullfighting tradition in his own inimitable way in "Death in the afternoon". Published 1932
What do you think?
Should bullfighting be abolished?
This is a very controversial issue
- Do you feel strongly about this?
- What about other sports such as hunting? Fishing? Can you draw any similarities?
- Have you ever been to a bullfight? How did it make you feel?
More articles on Spain
- Spanish Traditional Flamenco Dress
The origins of the stylish Spanish flamenco dress and how it has evolved over the decades and been able to inspire top fashion designers. I have included my own photos, a video and a map of Spain.
- How to learn Spanish-10 easy tips
Here are 10 easy-to-understand tips or ideas for learning Spanish. Now it's up to you to make the decision and get started now!
- How to learn Spanish fast: Intensive courses
‘Immersion’ in language learning describes the process of ‘immersing’ oneself completely, or as much as possible, among native speakers of the language desired, for a relatively short time. For your brain this means it has not time to ‘slip back’ int
- Spanish classical guitar
Never too late to learn! Get started on learing how to play Spanish Classical guitar and delight your friends with your newly-acquired talent.