By Virginia Bell

matador_bullfightingDuring this holiday season British tourists will be among spectators at bullfights, thus helping to ensure the continuation of this violent and cruel activity. The bullfight is the ritual torturing to death of bulls in the guise of entertainment. It is a spectacle of butchery and barbarity from beginning to end. The bull is confused, frightened and distressed from the start when he is forced into the arena. He is stabbed, speared, cut and sliced at throughout the ordeal. He probably suffered pre-fight torture designed to impair his ability to defend himself. The methods  used could include shaving down his horns, rubbing Vaseline into his eyes, severing the tendons on the back of his neck, stuffing wet newspapers into his ears, pushing cotton wool into his nostrils, sticking needles into his genitals, rubbing a burning chemical into his legs.

During the bullfight, the bull suffers prolonged and agonising torture before he dies. First picadors stab him in the neck with lances. Then banderilleros stick spears into his shoulders.  Then the matador thrusts his sword between the bull’s shoulder blades into his heart. This can take several attempts. If it’s botched, a sword is then used to cut the bull’s spinal cord. At the end, he is dragged out of the ring, perhaps dead, perhaps not. The cruelty is not confined to the bullring. Bullfighters practice on gentle cows in the slaughterhouse. Many thousands of bulls are used in bullfights every year. It is estimated that 250,000 bulls, cows and calves are tortured each year worldwide in bullfights and festivals. Thousands of horses also are cruelly abused, maimed or killed during the bullfight every year. They are blindfolded to ensure that they endure the bull’s charges, and it’s possible that their vocal chords are cut to stop them screaming.

I find it ridiculous that bullfights are considered as ‘culture’, and the EU gives millions of pounds a year to subsidise blood fiestas (which means our taxes are spent to promote bullfighting) despite the European Parliament’s opposition, and despite polls showing that the majority of Spanish people oppose the bullfight. 

The bullfight and other bull fiestas take place in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Venezuala, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and  France. Blood fiestas are not just bullfights. They are traditional rituals of torture involving many animals – cows, bulls, goats, chickens, geese, pigs . . . There are 10,000-20,000 blood fiestas every year in Spain, many to celebrate religious holidays and feast days of saints.

Ironically, St Francis of Assisi’s feast day is celebrated with animal cruelty rituals, and the feast day of St Antonio Abad, Spain’s patron saint of animals, is celebrated with chicken beheading competitions. Other examples include the Goat Festival of Manganeses de la Polyorosa, which sees villagers throw a goat from a church tower. If the goat survives it is drowned in the town fountain. As part of the San Fermin Fiestas in Pamplona, the Running of the Bulls takes place, whereby terrified bulls are chased through the streets to the bullring, tormented all the way by the crowds. In the Toro Jubilo Festival, flammable material is attached to the horns of terrified bulls, set on fire and left to burn for hours. The bulls’ faces, eyes and bodies burn as they crash around blindly in terror and agony. After they’re dead the meat is eaten, apparantly to confer fertility and invincibility. The Pero Palo Festival sees a rowdy crowd persecute a terrified donkey, crushing, kicking, beating, dragging it through the streets of the village of Villanueva de la Vera. In other fiestas pigeons and squirrels are suspended in pots which are then pelted with stones; birds are buried up to their heads and then de-capitated with swords; geese are strung up by their feet and their heads wrenched off; and pigs are used in wrestling contests. In Mexico, during the Embalse de Toros in Veracruz, on the Feast of the Virgin of Candelaria, Cebu, bulls are beaten and drowned. The Torneo de Lazo in Yucatan, a rodeo style event, sees mounted horses charged at and ripped open by bulls. In Brazil, Farra Do Boi Festival (roughly translated ‘fun with oxen’) is one of the worst festivals. Oxen are chased towards the sea, being tortured for hours on the way. Anything goes – legs are hacked off, chest slit open, eyes gouged out, tails chopped off, sometimes the oxen are doused with petrol and set on fire. And in Peru, at the Yaurar Fiesta, a condor is tied to the back of a bull. Either the condor dies trying to get loose, or it kills the bull. If the bull survives the condor, it is killed by the participants.


CREDITS:- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals- www.peta.org.uk

                 International Movement Against Bullfighting- www.iwab.org

The bullfight brings the Catholic Church into disrepute, because: 

• It is practised in Catholic countries like Spain and Mexico, where it is promoted, enacted and watched by Catholics; 

• It is staged to celebrate feast days of the Virgin Mary and other saints. In the bullfighting countries and in other countries such as Brazil, Panama, Nicaragua, thousands of fiestas take place in which bulls and other animals are abused and/or killed in the name of a patron saint under the blessing of a local priest; 

• Priests and bishops turn a blind eye to the business, or may benefit from funds raised, or may help promote the abuses;

• The Church has influence in these countries, and therefore has a duty to do all she can to oppose such horrific cruelty.

I once asked a Spanish priest who was visiting England why priests in Spain didn’t condemn the bullfight, and he said the people would not listen if priests reproved them for supporting bullfighting. He said they just wouldn’t come to Mass.

The Church should condemn the bullfight because it degrades the Faith, and makes a mockery of religious worship.  The bullfight portrays itself as a religious ballet, with passes like the ‘Veronica’, whereby the cape is held up in front of the body with both hands, and then drawn over the bull’s head while the bullfighter holds the posture. It is based on St Veronica holding a cloth to wipe the face of Christ on his way to Calvary. 

Many people see abuse of animals and abuse of humans as two separate things. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis makes it clear that they are the same. He talks of an “integral ecology” and a “universal communion”, which mean that all things in the world are connected and that we are all responsible for each other and for other creatures and for “our common home’”. He says that “every act of cruelty towards any creature is contrary to human dignity”. Unfortunately this message may fall on stony ground unless the Pope and the bishops give clear guidance on what is cruel. Is eating battery eggs cruel? Is the fur trade cruel? Is bullfighting cruel? The Church has decided to ignore these questions. Even after Laudato Si’ we have no specific condemnation of cruel and immoral practices that have become normalised and are part of the everyday lives of people, as the three examples above.

Surely something so heinous as the bullfight calls out for condemnation by the Church?  I appeal to readers to join me in calling on the Pope to condemn the bullfight. Copy and paste the following sentence, or use your own words, to your local apostolic nuncio (copy to: greg.burke@pressva.va):

Pope Francis, show your concern for creation by condemning the bullfight and directing that your bishops officially proclaim your condemnation.

The Apostolic Nuncio (Pope’s representative) for Great Britain’s e-mail address is: nuntius@globalnet.co.uk   Greg Burke is the new director of the Vatican Press Office. One way the Church could show that She has taken Laudato Si’ to heart is to set up a Committee on Animals within the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. I have a petition to that effect: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/394/779/718/call-on-the-catholic-church-to-do-more-for-animals/