August 26, 2005

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Bullfight story incomplete

I read your article “What is Bullfighting to Americans, and Americans to Bullfighting?” from August 12, 2005 in La Prensa. While you illustrate the standard favorable description of bullfighting, I was disappointed that the complete picture was conveniently covered in your description.

Let me explain.

I was born in Colombia and came to this country when I was almost 14 years of age some thirty years ago. In Colombia I was exposed to the “Corridas de Toros” at an early age. I was taken to my first bullfight when I was 7 year old and attended others as well. In that first bullfight, I remember a rather scrawny looking bull horned the matador who was, in my 7 year old opinion, “toreando” too close to the ring’s wall. I became disinterested in subsequent “corridas”, as I just didn’t see the point in watching an animal being killed by a bunch of men using lances, sticks with metal hooks, swords, and knifes.

You make the position that bullfighting is an art rather than a sport. No doubt, there is artistic expression that accompanies the bullfight - the music, the carefully choreographed maneuvers of the bullfighter, his elaborate dress. But how can we call the torturing of an animal art? Furthermore, we might say that art is creative, not destructive. How then can a primitive, cruel practice be expected to evoke feelings that characterize a successful work of art? In this context, a bullfighter can not be considered an artist, and the systematic torturing and killing of an animal can not be art.

Your comparison to other art forms also seemed to be problematic. Frankly, comparing bullfighting with skating is a bit off the mark.

Off the mark is also your characterization of the “toro bravo” and how it leads an idyllic life with plenty of food, water and spacious grazing land prior to his fateful death in the ring. These days, the ranches are actually selectively breading bulls that are oversized but not particularly aggressive. In fact, Joaquin Vidal, a Spanish reported for El Pais (one of Spain’s leading newspapers), writes of rampant corruption involving the ranches, matadors, and bullfighting rings.

A study conducted by scientists at Spain’s Salamanca University found that 20 percent of the bulls used for fighting are drugged before they step into the ring. In the sampling of 200 bulls, one in five had been given anti-inflammatory drugs, which mask injuries that could sap the animal’s strength.

Another common practice is to “shave” the bulls’ horns by sawing off a few inches. Bulls’ horns help the animals navigate, so a sudden change impairs their coordination. Shaving is illegal, so the horns are sometimes inspected by a veterinarian after a fight. But in 1997, the Confederation of Bullfighting Professionals, including Spain’s 230 matadors, went on strike in opposition to these veterinary inspections. The strikers claimed that veterinarians were “not qualified” to inspect the bulls.

Your statement “He will attack anything that moves, without provocation” is emphatically wrong. If a bull’s territory is respected the animal will not attack.

While it is true that the bull has been either revered or reviled in different cultures throughout history, nevertheless, we live in the 21st century where science has superseded myths and witchcraft. We as civilized, intelligent beings can no longer vilified and demonized an animal because it has horns, is black, has a specific temperament or other characteristics that might scare us. This is a living, feeling animal with a complex central nervous system similar to our own; meaning it feels pain.

What all of this means is that there is nothing great, artistic, or noble in the act of bullfighting. There is nothing to understand or misunderstand: it is simply an ancient ritual with roots going back to the gladiators in Roman times. Only now it has been modernized to make a science out of torturing a bull in three acts. It is an obstacle on the road to our own humanity.

Tulio Hernandez
New York

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