The Cruelty of the “Bloodless” bullfights In recent years, a new concept has begun gaining force in the debate about bullfighting. Originally from the USA where part of the Californian Portuguese community reinvented it about 20 years ago, the term “bloodless bullfighting”, which was translated later to Spanish as “cruel-less bullfight” (corrida incruenta), is often heard today in the public forums where the anti-bullfighting movement has already managed to put the debate about Tauromachy (“bullfighting” in Geek; word often used by the scholars who study it) in the political sphere. But this anti-intuitive concept is much older, and much more contradictory, than it seems at first glance. It is worth to analyse it in detail. 1. The endless search for uncruelty The dynamics of the label cruelty associated with bullfighting is integral to the bullfighting debate and as old as tauromachy itself. The fact that bullfighting spectacles are public has made the undoubtedly cruel practices of animal abuse difficult to hide, practices that advocates of animals have been showing to the general public, which is increasingly more sensitive to animal suffering, and therefore more opposed to such practices. This has forced the bullfighting industry to reform its image from generation to generation, trying to modify the practices that cause a more adverse reaction from the public, and to re-define its activities to get rid of the cruelty label. Several forms and styles of bullfighting have appeared in different countries through history trying to sell to the public an image of a tauromachy more politically correct. In Andalusia, during the 18th century, the regulation of bullfighting began, and the modern form of bullfights were created. However, in the same century, the intellectual European movement known as “ The Enlightenment ” (so named by its declared purpose of removing the darkness of humanity by means of the lights of reason) began spreading through Europe, gaining great momentum in countries such as the United Kingdom and France. This movement finally caused the banning of cruel spectacles where animals were pit to fight other animals or humans, and it spawned the animal protection movement, which in 1824 had already matured enough to see the birth of the first animal welfare organisations in the United Kingdom. One of the first historical advances of such organizations was the passing of the “Cruelty to Animals Act 1835”, Law that banned in England bullfights, cockfights, dogsfights and all the spectacles of animal fighting, which for centuries had dominated British society. This law undoubtedly influenced other countries, and the following year the queen of Portugal Dona
As far as physical suffering is concerned, there is one type that is common in all the styles ofthe bullfighting: exhaustion. So all sort of bullfighters can approach an animal and executetheir passes and/or twirls the animal must be weakened to reduce the risk of accident and torespond better to the instructions or “deceptions“ of the toreadors. That is not difficult, sincebovines have a very high corporal mass and not very efficient mechanisms to control theexcess of body temperature (they neither sweat like the equines or human beings, nor havevery long tongues to eliminate heat like canids or felines), and therefore, after certain physicalexercise, they become exhausted very easily and at risk of suffering hyperthermia. This can be verified simply observing their facial expressions, since there is one that indicates precisely exhaustion: the open mouth and the tongue out, while breathing intensely with the mouth (see adjacent photo of a Portuguese bullfight). From the bullfights to the Spanish style to the North American bullfights, each and every one of the bulls fought shows this expression after a few minutes of having been harassed by the bullfighters, and having run in the arena becauseof this harassment. In the case of the bullfights of the Portuguese style this exhaustion is moreevident because the bull is forced to run even more, chasing the bullfighter who in this style ison horseback (fact shared with the Spanish rejoneo). When an animal is exhausted, sincethere is a great danger of collapse (and even death) if it does not rest immediately, the brainmakes him feel suffering (which can even be shown as muscular pain, breathlessness, etc.),which evolutionarily is a natural mechanism to inform to an organism that it is living through anadverse situation that must be avoided urgently. The expressions of pain of exhausted athletesat the end of a marathon are a good example.The next example of physical suffering is the injury or wound. There is no need to argue thatinjury and wounds produce pain, since we all know this fact that is understandable bothevolutionarily and intuitively, and thereis no need either to argue that thepain is a form of suffering. Whatperhaps we must explain is that in theso-called cruel-less bullfights injuriesare also infringed to the animalsfought. In the case of the Portuguesebullfights every animal is injured bymetal weapon that clearly make himbleed. It begins with the “insignia”which is stabbed to the bull beforegoing out to the arena, and shows towhich cattle breeder it belongs to;then the “lance of punishment” thatthe riding bullfighter stabs on the bull’sback after it has been exhausted by making it chase a small flag at the end of a stick that therider shows to the bull, while the fresh horse (they change it every few minutes so that it does
The tauromachy debate is based on discussing the treatment bulls and horses used in thebullfighting industry receive, and deciding whether it is justified or not, and whether it needsmodifying or be stopped altogether. Therefore, at the very least, it will be necessary to assessthe five freedoms of animal welfare to find out whether or not there is animal abuse. In ourcase, we will do this only analysing the bullfights that have been described as cruel-less, andfrom what we have already seen in the previous chapters, not only it is clear that such bullfightsare in breach of some of these freedoms, but in fact they are in breach of all of them.With regard to the first one (freedom from thirst and hunger), it is known that, before a bullfight,the animals are not feed (for a whole day or more), to avoid excessive vomiting and defecationwhen facing the public, and to avoid the soporific state caused by their digestion, common inmany ruminants. Although such deprivation of feeding would be acceptable if recommended bya veterinarian previous to surgery, it clearly is not in the case of using to the animal inentertainment or celebration. This phenomenon also happens in the bloodless bullfights, forexactly the same reasons as in any other type of bullfight.With regard to the second one (freedom from discomfort), third (freedom from pain, injuries anddisease) and fifth (freedom from fear and distress), in the previous chapter we have alreadyshowed in detail that all the types of cruel-less bullfights infringe all these freedoms.With regard to the fourth one (freedom of expressing normal behaviour) the process of thebullfighting is based on using normal cattle behaviour and forcing the animals to express it inan unnatural form in the benefit of the spectacle. For example, the normal behaviour of abullfighting bull that is being threatened is to join its herd, if the threat persists to flee runningwith the herd (stampede), and if he keeps on persisting and the herd cannot flee more due togeographical limitations or exhaustion, then to charge with the intention of making the attackerdesist. This naturaldefensive behaviouris more or less thesame in all theruminants, as can beseen in wolveshunting deer, or lionshunting buffaloes. Inbullfighting, on theother hand, suchbehaviour is manipulated so that it is not expressed in natural form, but only showing the lastphase, which is repeated again and again. Bullfighters separate the bull so that it cannot usethe herd as protection, places it in a round bullring without exit or corners so that it cannot fleeor find shelter, and it is provoked continuously to awake the last resource: the charge. And thenthe cape (or the bullfighter in the case of the autochthonous French bullfights) is withdrawn atthe last moment so that the defensive charge, which in the nature would only be repeated acouple of times once physical contact has been established, keeps on repeating because it hasnot been completed. Therefore, the tauromachy not only prevents the normal behaviour of thebull, but it manipulates it until it appears as an unnatural behaviour (the continued charging,necessary for the spectacle). Also, the bullfighting bull breeders, theoretically, control thereproduction of their animals to generate bulls that charge more normal (to became more“brave”), which in itself is an attempt of genetic control of the behaviour that forces to the bull tobehave abnormally.
towards the bloodless bullfight, which is a much more fertile terrain for the deception of themanipulation of the bull?6. The tauromachy with a sheep’s skinThe tauromachy not only is based on events where animals are tortured, but on publicspectacles where bullfighting aficionados can bring their young children so that they can alsobecome fans, through desensitising and tribal cohesion. Those who oppose bullfighting usepowerful arguments about how violence perpetrated to the bulls ends up infecting the societywhich tolerates tauromachy, making it a more insensitive society to the suffering of others, andtherefore more at risk to becoming more violent. There are already well-known studies thatrelate the abuse of animals to the abuse to human beings, and there are more scholars whojoin the rejection of bullfighting not for animal protection reasons, but for public security reason.However, how does this induction to violencechange in case of the bloodless bullfights? Ifthe torture, although modified, persists, if theworship to the killer of bulls persists, if thebreeding of animals to be humiliated in publicspectacles persists, if the narrative of thebullfighting liturgy of dominance over the beastpersists, and if, finally, the machy (fight) intauromachy persists, the induction to violence isgoing to keep on existing. If the tauromachycovers itself with a sheep’s skin, more reasonsfor us to be afraid of the wolf that hides behind.Beyond the apology of the violence from a purely theoretical and indirect point of view, theexistence of the bloodless bullfights does not prevent them from being used to reinforce thebloody bullfights. The clearest case is that of the North American bullfights, which generated amini bullfighting industry in the USA. Such industry, despite being limited by the legislation thatprevents it to organise bullfights in the Spanish, Portuguese or “Quito” styles, has created notonly bullfighting bull farms to be used in bloodless bullfights, but also bullfighting schools, inwhich some toreadors of name have already been created. But such schools do not teach the “bloodless bullfighting”, but simply the traditional bullfighting, and the bullfighters formed in themhave ended up killing bulls abroad, because that was the reason they signed up to the courses.It is ironic that an industry that brands itself as “bloodless” has schools of bull killers who learnto be the most bloody that one could be.The imitation of a violent activity remains a violent activity in itself, so therefore we should notbe surprised to see that those who learn the art of killing declaring that they are not going touse it, end up using it where they are allowed to do so. As analogy, lets look at the case of“raping” (this is only an illustrative analogy, not a direct comparison). In a hypothetical worldwhere rapists have organized themselves to perform their activities as a public spectacle, andwhere they have managed to do it in a particular country during so many generations thatspectators have begun to confusing sexual excitement for artistic catharsis, it is perfectlypossible that a sexomachy could be created, with an associate industry, chairs in universitiesto study it, journalistic commentators specializing in it, and of course an organized oppositionfrom human rights advocates against it. If such hypothetical society, influenced by theintellectual advances of other countries, was maturing with time till the point that the majority ofthe population would like to ban the “sexomachy” activities, it is possible that the option of the “
cruel-less rape” is put on the table. First limiting who can be raped, and which type of sexualacts are allowed. Then, if that does not satisfy the human rights protestors, reform even moreforcing the rapists to use condoms, and only to rape victims who have had a lucky andluxurious life. Perhaps that would not eliminate the debate either, so in the end, the “real cruel-less rape” par excellence would be proposed: Not more human victims; they all are replacedwith inflatable dolls. Would it really be reasonable to expect that such society should acceptsuch sexomachy, even if there are already no real victims? Would not be the banning of“worship to rape” the only ethically acceptable solution? The imitation of cruelty remains beinga cruel act, especially if the victim does not know that it was an imitation.The cruelty of the cruel-less bullfights, be called Portuguese, Frenchs, North American, fromQuito or any other invented, is very real as far as the bulls, cows and horses that have toendure it is concerned, but it is also real for the members of the society that tolerates them,since it prevents them from abolishing completely bullfighting, which cause social damage andhelps to perpetuate violence. The majority of countries in the world chose the abolition withoutthe need of any intermediate step, because in ethical issues that imply suffering to thirdparties no intermediate steps are acceptable. The animal protection movement is a part of thepeace movement opposed to unjustified violence, and therefore seeks the abolition oftauromachy, by law or by reconversion. In the 21st century there is no room for cruel spectaclesthat cause suffering to other sentient beings, and changing the name, the form or intensity ofsuch cruelty does not give them the right to continue existing. Jordi Casamitjana Ethologist London, UK January 2012