The red cape flashes toward the sky as the matador points a long sword at his opponent. The bull, breathing heavily, frothing with sweat and weakened with barbs, charges again. The matador is caught by the horns and goes flying into the dirt but not before plunging the sword deep into the animal’s neck. The bull stands stricken and bleeding as several other matadors gather around him teasing him with their capes. In severe pain and shock, he does not move. It is several agonizing minutes before the matador retrieves his sword from the bull and stabs him again in the back of the neck. On the second strike, the bull dies.
Bullfighting is often at the center of contentious arguments as to what is considered culturally acceptable versus abjectly cruel. The industry, long hailed as Spain’s most ancient sport, is responsible for the deaths and maiming of thousands of bulls and hundreds of horses each year. But the fact is bullfighting is mainly sustained by the tourists that pay to see the fights and by subsidies provided by governments.
Unfortunately, colleges and high schools in the United States still put bullfights on the top of their itineraries during student trips to Spain and Latin America. Recently a colleague’s friend traveled with her high school class to Spain. She refused to attend a bullfight during the trip but sadly was the only one to do so. These events provide little in educational value, and student attendance only promotes the myth that bullfighting is a culturally relevant practice. Just Googling “bullfighting origins” illustrates how unclear the actual history of the sport is.
What is more, today’s bullfighting rings are nearly empty of Spanish spectators. The last Gallup poll of Spanish opinions on bullfighting has shown that 72 percent of Spaniards are not interested at all in bullfighting. The rejection of Spaniards for this long-standing practice is foremost a progression toward better treatment of animals, but also a general annoyance at the way taxpayers’ money is used to support the bullfighting industry, particularly given the current financial climate.
In the end it is tourist demand that is keeping bulls at the center of the ring, but compassionate travelers can be powerful agents of change. Tourists traveling to Spain or Latin America should boycott festivals and activities where bulls are taunted and killed for the sake of entertainment. By refusing to pay for a ticket, you are voting to end the cruel practice.
The citizens of Catalonia, a region of Spain surrounding Barcelona, are calling for change in the region’s animal protection law, which currently offers no safeguards for bulls and horses used for bullfights. Public outcry has forced Catalonia Parliament to schedule a vote on removing the exemption. A 'yes' vote in this key region would be a groundbreaking step toward ending bullfighting in Spain. You can show the Catalonia Parliament that their citizens’ campaign to end bullfighting has worldwide support by adding your name to our petition today.