Since completing university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
Bullfighting: Fine Art or Blood Sport?
Bullfighting is a deeply controversial spectacle that is called a "fine art" by its supporters and a "blood sport" by its critics. It mainly takes place in European countries such as Spain and Portugal, as well as certain Latin American countries, such as Mexico. The spectacle takes place inside a bullring, where one or more bulls are baited before being killed according to formal rules and customs, which are interpreted by the bullfighter. Strictly speaking, as there is no directly competitive element, it cannot be called a sport, but it is certainly seen as an art form by its fans.
Bullfighting has been going on for thousands of years, but has increasingly come under critical pressure in recent decades, as the animal rights movement has grown. Critics of the practice can be found inside bullfighting's heartlands as well as in the wider world.
Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor.
— Ernest Hemingway
6 Arguments in Favor of Bullfighting
- Bullfighting is an art form and should be seen as an equivalent to dance, or painting, or music. The matadors are following rules, procedures, and traditions that have developed over centuries.
- The practice has a long heritage in many areas and especially in countries such as Spain. It likely goes back to at least the Roman period and represents a form of living history.
- Bullfighters are skillful and, behind all the pomp and ritual, the bull is actually being killed in a very efficient manner.
- Far more bulls are killed to be eaten by abattoirs than die in the bullring. There are many slaughterhouses that operate in a less-than-effective manner. The focus on banning bullfighting as being particularly cruel is misplaced.
- In some places, parts of Spain especially, bullfighting is perceived by many people as being an integral part of their regional culture.
- Critics sometimes argue that bullfighting is wrong because it is killing for fun, rather than for something necessary like food. This approach only really works as an argument for full vegetarianism (rather than just anti-bullfighting), as every time someone chooses a steak over a salad or a beef burger over a cheese sandwich, you could argue that they are endorsing killing for fun.
5 Arguments Against Bullfighting
- The practice is barbaric and cruel. Essentially, bullfighting is ritually slaughtering an animal purely for entertainment.
- Rather than "traditional," the practice could be better described as "archaic". We no longer allow gladiatorial contests, so why should we allow bullfighting?
- It is not just the bulls who suffer: horses are also injured and suffer death (not to mention the bullfighters themselves, who can be maimed or killed too).
- The death of the bull is extended and painful, making it unnecessarily cruel. The argument that the bullfighter kills the bull efficiently is clearly questionable. If anything, the customs of the spectacle demand that the animal's death is drawn out rather than quick.
- People who are in favor of bullfighting tend to play down the numbers of bulls that are killed, but figures gathered by animal rights groups suggest that 2,500 bulls lose their lives in Portugal each year, and in Spain, the figure is closer to 30,000.
Bullfighting Around the World
Spain, Portugal, southern France, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and the Philippines all have bullfighting as a traditional spectacle.
There are also other places in the world which have non-lethal versions of bullfighting, and places (such as the Persian Gulf, Bangladesh, Peru, Balkans, Turkey, Japan, and Korea) where bulls fight other bulls rather than people.
The Oldest Bullring in the World
The oldest bullring in the world is the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria in Seville, Spain. Bullfighting takes place there during the annual Seville Fair and is part of the Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla, a famous guild created for traditional cavalry training.
Construction of the bullring began in 1749 at the place where a previous bullring had been located. Work was supervised in the early stages by Francisco Sanchez de Aragon and Pedro y Vicente de San Martin and the inner facade of the plaza (know as the Palco del Principe or Prince's Box) was finished in 1765.
Sculptures were added by the Portuguese sculptor Cayetano de Acosta.
Courage and grace is a formidable mixture. The only place to see it is the bullring.
— Marlene Dietrich
Is Bullfighting Cruel?
Types of Bullfighters
There are three main bullfighting types:
- Matador de Toros - Considered to be both athletes and artists by bullfighting fans, his job is to gradually subdue the bull. He is judged by the crowd according to his style and bravery.
- Picador - He rides a horse and spears the bull with a special lance called pica. The horse is protected from the bull's horns by a 'peto', a mattress-like shield.
- Banderillero - He is a matador who plants banderillas (little flags) into the bull. The crowd judges him.
To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter of baby seals in Canada while continuing to eat eggs from hens who have spent their lives crammed into cages, or veal from calves who have been deprived of their mothers, their proper diet, and the freedom to lie down with their legs extended, is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.
— Peter Singer, Animal Liberation
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why do people kill bulls for fun?
Answer: Proponents of bullfighting argue that not only is it a means of providing entertainment for thousands of people, but also part of a centuries old cultural tradition, and that “toreros”, or bullfighters are the equivalent of skilled artists. Another argument used in favor is that fighting bulls live longer and have better quality lives than those raised on farms purely for meat.
Question: Why doesn't Spain ban bullfighting?
Answer: Advocates for bull fighting in Spain typically see it as a traditional part of their culture, going back thousands of years. For proponents, bullfighting is more than a sport, it is an art form.
© 2013 Paul Goodman
New Guestbook Comments
Ayah Asad on February 12, 2020:
It's cruel and barbaric. Imagine being born and raised to be killed in front of a crowd and an man in fancy clothes.
Person on January 22, 2020:
I think its cool
Person on January 10, 2020:
Bull fighting is a fair way of killing a bull. It is a quick kill and the bull is sold for meat afterwards. Compared to slaughterhouses and other places where bulls are killed, this is a cleaner but longer way of killing a bull.
AJ on January 08, 2020:
Bullfighting Kills innocents bulls for NO REASON so whats the point of killing innocent animals
Emily on June 10, 2019:
It is NOT fair on the bulls. If you do bullfighting I will fight you.
jayden Medrano on June 03, 2019:
I think bullfighting is stupid and if you are for it, you are stupid!!
Chloe on May 27, 2019:
I think it is cruelty and so not fair on the bulls. What did the bull ever do to you.
Bulls on April 14, 2019:
I believe that if you don't like bullfighting and think that it is "inhumane" then yu should stay out of it. We don't tell you you are being mean to animals when you come out of mc Donald's with 10 fking burgers JACKIE
Skeleton, on January 15, 2019:
It's not fair on bulls
XD on November 22, 2018:
i think bullfighting is a very interesting kind of art but if the are tortured,i will disagree
XD on November 05, 2018:
Bullfighting is a beautiful form of art that expresses effort and courage, and also, a bull that is destined to a bullring has a longer and more quality life in luxurious farms, and anyway, if bullfighting is banned, the bulls will still be killed in a slaughterhouse, where they are killed in large numbers, in a way more cruel way.
Maya on September 18, 2018:
If they are so confident and proud of being bullfighters, then why do they try to talk down the number of bulls killed each year
Nuno on July 27, 2018:
This great article forgets to mention Forcados, a group of toureiros from Portugal that tries to catch the bull by the horns and tail with bare hands. They only get pounded around in the process and do absolutelly no harm to the beast. Another argument in favour is that vegetarians also torture living beings each time they spear a fork into a vegetable to eat it. I am Portuguese and do not like to see Touros de Morte (Death Bulls), where the Touros are killed in the Arena by the Matador. It's not a Portuguese tradition and it's even forbidden in Portugal (except in Barrancos, a former spanish city). So when trying to ban Touradas you are all trying to end also a thousands-age tradition that does less harm to people than boxing. And promoting the extinction of Touros Bravos, a rare type of bull that still only exists in the wild thanks to the Touradas. And Americans still practice human sacrifice, in the name of something, each time US goes to enforce peace somewhere. For me it's an art form but I agree that It's not a painting. Some parts may even be viewed as cruel, taken out of context. I myself do not like to see bandarilhas (to spear the bull with colorful irons... some argue that the bull doesn't feel nothing...to me it's way too dangerous for the Forcados, who are usually come last in the touradas ) but I also have a lot of fun spearing a knife and a fork into a good steak or vegetable so who am I to criticize. It's like eating cats and dogs, wouldn't cross my mind to eat them but i can see it's a cultural limitation, cause I like rabbits or pigs (and they are pets too). We are all trying to impose our views of the world to others. I liked the gladiator argument though, it really makes one question his beliefs... but we should end hunger and wars first, or boxing, or martial arts (which I also hope we never do, except wars and hinget), or slaughterhouses, then Touradas. Animalists treat pets as humans, something they are not but it's up to them. For me It's way too fundamentalist. It would make more sense to focus in the billions of cows butchered without any honour in the slaughterhouses, instead of raging against the harmless Pega de Caras (the masterpiece of Forcados... something like "in the bull's face"). Westerns eat the Hindus sacred cows... who's right? Both.
Yawrf on December 03, 2017:
That was excellently stated, Martina
Martina Schaar on October 14, 2017:
You don´t realize one thing: all bovines need to die. Not that I want it that way, to prevent some misunderstandings. I just say it how it is. Cows get butchered after they gave all the milk and gave bith to the calves. Normal bulls get slaughtered after 3-4 years of life. Fighting bulls live a year or two longer, they are between 4-6 years of age when they get to the bullring. Now the most important thing: is bullfighting a needless cruelty? Yes. Is the slaughterhouse more humane to the bovines? Hell no, it is much worse. Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse? Cows get butchered without being stunned, or get killed in front of their fuzzy friends, one after another. Some get lifted by their feet and thrown into grinding machines alive. It is terrible, inhumane, extremely grim. The cows all know why they are there. They cry, moo, but can´t escape because they are all crammed in one place. If normal people saw what happens in slaughterhouses, they´d be pretty disturbed. Most likely for the rest of their lives. I am sure some couldn´t live with the images popping inside their head and would even kill themselves. Not joking here. It is THAT bad. Now compare it to the typical corrida. It has three stages. The bull first gets SERIOUSLY hurt towards the end of the second stage. Each stage lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. In the end, the Matador de Toros (aka "The Killer Of Bulls", yes, that´s the correct name) has to slay the animal with just ONE blow between its shoulders. The bull is supposed to die instantly and not suffer. This happens in at least 95 percent of cases. And that´s it. The dead animal is then dragged away by a quadrilla, all the blood is washed away, and after the doors at the exit close, another gate opens, and the next bull is set to the ring. The bulls never get to see what happened to their friends. Now tell me, what is more inhuman, the socially accepted slaughterhouse, or the generally condemned corrida? I think it´s pretty easy.
Bulls on March 06, 2017:
we are talking about bulls not McDonalds... Jackie
Moonmoon Hossain on February 19, 2017:
I think it should be banned
firstname.lastname@example.org on January 12, 2016:
There were even human sacrifices in History in different parts of the world, Now every one is against it. hence in the name of tradition teasing and killing the poor animals should not be carried out. our future goal should be absolute vegetarianism and animals be allowed to find their means in reserved forests.
jake eagleshield on January 12, 2015:
there is a huge difference between raising beef for food,and dispatching them in a humane way(see kosher traditions) and killing for the sake of killing like trophy hunters do. Bullfighting is the same as cock fighting,dog fighting,bear baiting and the like
Jackie Jackson from Fort Lauderdale on February 17, 2014:
I don't eat meat but oddly, I have no objection to bullfighting. I have a HUGE objection to the USA meat industry though. A society that objects to bullfighting yet sees filet mignon as a treat and a McDonalds as every day food seems a little hypocritical to me. Not many people agree with me though :)