Photo credit: Jorge-11 via Flickr/CC BY
What do you think of when you picture Madrid? If you say Guernica, you're probably lying. It's bullfighting, of course--the storied sport is seemingly as inseparable from Spanish culture as it is from reading Hemingway. Both an age-old cultural tradition, and a longtime cause of animal rights protest, the sport of bullfighting could become a thing of the past--it's now facing a ban from the Spanish government. Bullfighting is now being protested on a large scale in multiple regions of Spain, and a petition has been circulating that's acquired 180,000 signatures, and the support of some Spanish luminaries. According to M&C;:
Opposition to bullfighting is mounting especially in north-eastern Catalonia, which could become Spain's first region to ban corridas, anti-bullfighting campaigner Eric Gallego told the German Press Agency dpa in a telephone interview.
Because of this, the measure is being brought to the regional parliament for debate, where the growing mood against bullfighting could render it illegal in the area. The opposition to the sport has grown primarily for two reasons, it seems: a heightened awareness (or growing outrage, whichever you prefer) to the issues of animal cruelty, and a younger generation wishing to cast off what seem to them as dated, outmoded traditions of a more primitive past:
Bullfighting is losing popularity in all of Spain, especially among young people. Fewer than 30 per cent of Spaniards take an interest in the spectacle, polls show.
And yet, millions of people attend bullfights every year--many of them tourists. "Bullfighting nevertheless remains a multimillion-dollar industry in Spain," according to the report. And certainly its a tricky line to walk--the practice is undoubtedly a cultural institution. But it's also a violent, and yes, pretty undeniably a cruel one. 250,000 bulls are killed every year in Spain--and they do not die quiet deaths.
I once witnessed a bullfight, and I have to say, it's pretty gut-wrenching--many imagine the matador dancing around the bull and running his saber through its heart. But before that, the bull is stabbed by men with daggers, skewered with spears by horseback riders, and drained of much of its blood and strength before the 'classic' moment arrives. The dirt in the arena gets coated in clumpy red, and often there are literally fountains of blood let forth from the bulls. I wouldn't watch one again.
The question remains on how best to navigate the question of cultural relevancy. If bullfighting is too culturally important to ban altogether, perhaps a ban in certain regions could limit the scale of the cruelty--thousands of bulls probably don't have to be executed in such a manner every year.