The Last Bullfight

After the July 2010 ban on bull fighting was adopted and set to become effective in January of 2012, this past Sunday marked the final bullfight to occur in Barcelona. This area of Spain (Catalonia) is only the second region in the country to ban the dangerous (yet highly traditional) sport, as the Canary Islands banned bullfighting in 1991.

The ban on bullfighting in Catalonia grew mainly out of animal cruelty concerns, yet many people who are unhappy with the ban believe that Catalan nationalism played a strong part in the vote, as Catalans desire to distinguish themselves from the rest of Spain and the country’s traditions. Bullfighting in Spain has been a tradition for hundreds of years, dating all the way back t0 1387, as the sport continues today throughout the rest of the country.

While those who support the ban claim that the time has come for Catalonia to modernize and recognize that such a barbaric practice can no longer be tolerated, those who oppose the ban cite that bullfighting is a vital “art form” that needs to be preserved. The ban’s opponents believe that the sport is so deeply rooted in tradition that the ban itself is an insult to Spanish history, as they also believe the ban is an infringement on civil liberties.

Did Catalonia make the correct choice by banning bullfighting? Should an activity like this, so deeply rooted in tradition, continue despite modern day concerns of animal welfare?

Additionally, was the ban enacted due to animal welfare considerations, or was it really just a “snub to Spain by independence-minded” Catalans? Does it matter either way?


  1. Having just read The Sun Also Rises and interned with someone who purposely visited Pamplona for the running of the bulls this summer (I lent him the novel for effect), bullfighting was on my mind. As a believer in animal rights, I wondered why the argument for culture caused me to pause at all before considering this ban a victory. No one disagrees that cockfighting is abhorrent; dogfighting is reviled. What is different about bullfighting? The “artistry,” I realized. Hemingway attempted to translate the discipline, skill and glory of the matador into the English language: a literal dance of life and death, a transcendental experience, suffused with the collective, drunken euphoria of all who come to celebrate. Are these aspirations a cultural right?

    No. I think Catalonia made the right choice for several reasons, despite the protests that the prohibition is a infringement of Catalonia’s civil liberties. The support for bullfighting must be waning if animal activists were able to prevail; if the overwhelming majority truly wanted to preserve bullfighting, a pushback would have succeeded. Additionally, it is time that bullfighting gave way to higher human values: gladiator battles were similarly valued in Roman culture, yet they haven’t been continued out of a mistaken nostalgia for ancient traditions. No one will ever forget Catalonia’s bullfights. The ancient tradition will live on, not on the dirt of the arena, but in Catalonia’s people, its history books, and its culture.

  2. I think Catalonia made the right decision. The argument they make for “tradition” is pretty weak. There used to be a tradition of slavery here in America, that doesn’t mean it was a good thing, or that it wasn’t progress to abolish slavery. You have to be able to move forward with the times and not get stuck on how things used to be. It’s understandable that they are reluctant to let go of such an integral part of their identity, but there has to be a way that they can honor their culture while still being progressive with animal rights.

    Perhaps they could reach some kind of compromise where there is still bull fighting, but the animals aren’t killed at the end. It seems to me, anyway, that most of the “art” aspect of bullfighting comes from the acrobatic moves that the matadors employ while moving around the ring; killing the animals at the end just seems unnecessary.

  3. I am glad that this post recognizes the importance and significance of the bull fighting tradition in Spanish culture. Too often people from cultures foreign to the traditional bull fighting cultures fail to comprehend the strength of the traditionalist sentiments. It is precisely these sentiments that even raise an issue as to the motive of the Catalan decision to ban bull fighting. Clearly, if the Spanish did not hold the bull fighting tradition in high regard, there would be no inquiry into the motives of the “independence-minded” Catalans.
    I’d like to shift, if I may, from the political motivations of the Catalans to a brief discussion of acceptability. The fact that I find bull fighting deplorable and cannot appreciate the notion that the torturous death of an animal somehow constitutes a sport, does not take into consideration what the Spanish culture has deemed acceptable (to the point where it has become a tradition). After all, that is the center of the discussion here, what is or is not an acceptable form of sport? It is easy to say bull fighting should not be acceptable, but what about hunting? For a quick comparison, consider that many Americans hunt and fish for sport and this is considered tradition for those that engage in these activities. For whatever reason, hunting is more acceptable worldwide than bull fighting. What makes these activities (hunting and fishing) any less of a concern for animal welfare? Does it matter what animal is being killed? The population of the animal (last I checked bulls weren’t endangered)? Or is it the weapon and method of killing used that distinguishes the two? (Who knows, maybe if the matador would just pull a shotgun trigger bull fighting wouldn’t be under so much heat). Regardless of one’s rationale in distinguishing between hunting and bull fighting, the competing concerns of animal welfare and cultural tradition are determined by the perceived acceptability of different cultures. And what one culture may deem acceptable, another may deem unacceptable.
    That being said, I do not believe a deeply rooted cultural tradition should always be shielded from reevaluation. There are countless examples of inhumane traditions throughout the world that have been modified to fit modern notions of acceptability while others have been abolished completely.

  4. Sacrificing animals for “art” is a barbaric practice that has no place in today’s society. Although once revered for the skill involved, bullfighting is blatantly cruel to animals. Whatever the reason for banning the practice, it was the right decision to end this unnecessary cruelty that has gone on way too long. Cultural tradition, although important, should not rest on the shoulders of an animal that sacrifices his life for the “artistic” pleasure of an onlooking crowd that roots for his death. Many people may liken this practice to hunting or fishing, but the differences are vast. In bullfighting, the bull is stabbed and most likely will die a slow and painful death while crowds cheer. When one hunts, the end goal is different. The goal is not to exploit the animals, but to kill them for food and nourishment. When one hunts, the animal roams free the wild, not tied to a rope and cornered in a ring. Bullfighting represents cruel inhumanity towards animals and hopefully this practice will be banned all around the world.

  5. I agree that differences between hunting for sport and bull fighting exist but am not convinced that they are vast. There is no comparison between bull fighting and hunting for food (as a main source of one’s livelihood), however, a comparison to hunting for sport can be made. Food is secondary in hunting for sport and bull fighting (many bulls are eaten after their death). One cannot overlook the fact that both are done for enjoyment or entertainment purposes and overtime have become traditions in their respective communities and cultures. Clearly, there is a difference in filling a stadium for the “spectacle” that is the slow and painful death of an animal and hunting an animal for sport in the woods. The difference (and other differences), however, is one of degree and perception of the beholder. Such differences in degree and perception formulate the foundation of our ideas and opinions as to what is acceptable.

    Additionally, hunting for sport is an exploitation of animals in its own form and is not a sure bet for a quick death of an animal. Some animals are hunted with hunting knives and not guns. Others meet there demise in traps. Some animals are then stuffed, or placed on a wall as “trophies.” Is this not inhumane? I’m sure one can argue that it is less inhumane than bull fighting, assuming that to be true, how much less inhumane is it? It is easy to say bull fighting in a stadium is an exploitation of an animal, but hunting for sport exploits the animals for business gains as well. Hunting for sport has lead to its own industry. Furthermore, can one claim that hunting for one’s own enjoyment as a hobby is not an exploitation of an animal?

    My point in comparing hunting for sport and bull fighting is not to suggest that they are the same. I am simply pointing out that the differences may not be as vast as one might suggest. The degree of the differences is what we base our opinions on and then decide what we believe is acceptable. Until recently, bull fighting was acceptable. After reconsidering the inhumanity of the act we decide that is unacceptable, regardless of its cultural history and tradition. Is it not fair to reconsider the possible inhumanity in other similar acts, regardless of their cultural history and tradition? Are they still acceptable?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *