Before a Bullfight: 8 Ways Bulls Are Abused Before They Step Into a Ring

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3 min read

Every year, humans mutilate and slaughter thousands of bulls in bloody spectacles known as “bullfights”—an inaccurate term for events in which bulls are strategically set up to lose. In a typical bullfight, matadors repeatedly stab confused, defenseless bulls until they eventually bleed out—but the suffering of these animals starts long before humans force them into a ring.

matador stabbing bull in the back of the neck in Pamplona

Here are just some of the ways the bullfighting industry abuses bulls:

1. Humans selectively breed bulls to enhance their aggressive traits.

Bulls naturally avoid humans and will respond aggressively if they’re provoked. The bullfighting industry selectively breeds bulls to be more agitated and combative in order to “heighten the performance” of the vicious spectacle. Even so, bulls used for these events aren’t really “fighting”—they’re instinctually defending themselves from a threat, and they have no means of escaping from an arena, causing them even more distress.

2. Breeders mutilate newborn calves.

Mother cows instantly form strong bonds with their precious babies and experience anguish when separated from them. When calves are just days old, breeders temporarily take them from their protective mothers—causing them extreme distress—to give the newborns an “earmark” for identification. This procedure, which involves cutting an animal’s ear with scissors or a knife, is often done without pain relief.

3. Ranchers brand bulls with hot irons.

When bull calves reach 7 to 9 months old, ranch workers identify them by branding them up to four different ways—with the brand of the breeder, the brand of the association of breeders, an identification number, and the animal’s date of birth. This painful process is typically performed without any painkillers. At this age, the calves are definitively separated from their mothers.

4. Breeders stab bulls to “test” them.

When bulls reach 2 to 3 years of age, ranchers subject them to a series of tests—or tientas—to determine which animals will be used for breeding. During these tests, riders on horseback stab them and provoke them with a red cape—or capote—to see if they respond aggressively. Bulls who “pass the test” are used in bullfights or for breeding. Those who don’t “pass” are often sent to slaughterhouses or are sold to be used in other cruel events.

5. Children slaughter some young bulls for “practice.”

One disturbing video shows children as young as 14 learning how to stab calves as part of a practical exam at a bullfighting school in Madrid.

6. Bulls suffer during transport.

Bulls are highly social animals and typically live in large herds, in which they form lasting, meaningful relationships. In the bullfighting industry, human workers separate bulls from their herd at around age 4 and send them to bullfighting rings. During transport, workers isolate the animals and deprive them of food and water—sometimes for days. Many bulls lose up to 100 pounds during the highly stressful process.

7. Humans shave bulls’ horns to disorient them.

Before humans force bulls to “fight” to their deaths, the animals often endure a painful and debilitating process known as “horn shaving,” which impairs them and diminishes their capacity to measure distances, let alone defend themselves against bloodthirsty bullfighters. Although horn shaving is prohibited, it’s still a common practice. Many humans get away with it by shaving a small amount off a bull’s horn, which is difficult to detect.

8. Bulls endure physical and mental torment right before a fight.

In the hours leading up to a typical bullfight, humans confine bulls to tiny, dark isolation cells without any food or water. Right before the confused, anxious animals are forced into a ring, humans often stab them with a sharp harpoon called a divisa, further stacking the odds against them.

After enduring a lifetime of abuse, these sentient animals are violently slaughtered in front of screaming, jeering spectators. Bulls can’t consent to participating in these events. It’s time to end all bullfighting.

Help PETA End Bloody Bullfighting

Every animal is someone. Please never attend a bullfight and take action to spare bulls from these cruel spectacles:

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