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Bullfighting

Each year, thousands of bulls are barbarically slaughtered in bullrings around the world.  From the moment they enter the ring, the bulls don’t stand a chance. They may be weakened by beatings, have their horns shaved to keep them off balance, or have petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to impair their vision.

dead bull©Lisa Markkula

In a typical Spanish bullfight, the bull enters the arena and is approached by picadors—men on horses who drive lances into the bull’s back and neck muscles. This attack impairs the bull’s ability to lift his head and defend himself. They twist and gouge the lances to ensure significant blood loss.

Then banderilleros enter on foot, distract the bull, and dart around him while plunging banderillas—brightly colored sticks with harpoon points on their ends—into his back. When the bull has become weakened from blood loss, the banderilleros run the bull in circles until he becomes dizzy and stops chasing them.

Finally, the matador appears and, after provoking a few exhausted charges from the dying animal, tries to kill the bull with his sword. If he misses, succeeding only in further mutilating the animal, an executioner is called in to stab the exhausted and submissive bull to death. The dagger is supposed to cut the animal’s spinal cord, but even this stroke can be blundered, leaving the bull conscious but paralyzed as he is chained by his horns and dragged out of the arena.

If the crowd is happy with the matador, the bull’s ears and tail are cut off and presented as trophies. A few minutes later, another bull enters the arena and the sadistic cycle starts again.

The Running of the Bulls

Most tourists don’t know that all the bulls who run in the streets of Pamplona, Spain, are later killed in the bullring. Before the runs, the bulls are kept in crowded, dark enclosures, and when they are prodded onto the streets, they are momentarily blinded by the sunlight. Runners hit them with rolled-up newspapers. The panicked animals can lose their footing on corners and crash into walls, possibly breaking bones or otherwise injuring themselves. They will be stabbed to death at the end of each day.

Opposition to Bullfighting

Around the world, opposition to bullfighting is growing. In July 2010, Catalonia’s Parliament banned bullfighting, and in May 2013, the Mexican state of Sonora did the same. In October 2013, France’s Green Party introduced a proposal to ban killing bulls. In 2011, Ecuador banned killing animals for entertainment. After Portugal’s municipality of Viana do Castelo banned bullfighting in 2009, the city’s mayor said, “The defence of animal rights is not compatible with spectacles that torture and impose unjustifiable suffering.” From 2008 to 2013, attendance in Spanish arenas fell by 40 percent. In 2008, about 3,300 bullfights were held in Spain. In 2012, they dropped to less than 2,000, and in 2013, it’s expected that less than 500 bullfights will be held.

Portuguese ‘Bloodless’ Bullfights

Despite the name, Portuguese bullfights are anything but bloodless. The bull is stabbed with banderillas by a matador on horseback, causing deep wounds and significant blood loss. The bull is then tormented by eight forcados, seven of whom grab the animal’s head while the eighth pulls on his tail, eventually stopping the exhausted animal. The bull is not killed in the ring but dragged out and left bleeding to await his slaughter, hours or even days later.

Horses in Bullfights

Bulls aren’t the only victims in bullfights. Horses are used to run bulls in circles, are viciously spurred, and can quickly become exhausted. Horses can be seriously gored or killed by charging bulls trying to protect themselves. They’re also forced to pull the bulls’ dead bodies out of the ring.