Explaining Bullfighting in Spain:

An Interview with Daniel Caballero, Animal Rights Activist

August 10, 2013  |  By Geneviève Lavoie-Mathieu, Canada

Explaining Bullfighting in Spain:

Photo : Wikimedia Commons

Why does bullfighting remain in Spain, and why it's important for the 'traditional art' to stop, as a first step against factory farming.

Two years after the historic decision made by the Catalan government to ban bullfighting in the province, animal rights activists, environmentalists and an increasing number of citizens have been questioning this practice. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in 2009 a Gallup survey found that "76 percent of Spaniards have no interest in attending or supporting bullfights". Yet, it still remains one of the strongest symbols of Spanish culture, and a long standing traditional 'art', with its origins tracing back to 711 A.D.

Daniel Caballero is a volunteer activist and funding member of an anti-bullfighting advocacy group in Lorca, southern Spain. He describes himself and the members of the group as 'animal rights advocates in a country where animals are treated as objects and tortured in the name of art'. According to the Spanish activist, animal rights remain problematic in Spain 'where streets are filled with suffering, hungry and sick animals that have often been abandoned'.

A Problem Deeply Rooted in Politics

Everyday more and more people join the anti-bullfighting side, says Caballero, but the problem remains political and deeply rooted in cultural heritage and aristocracy. "The crowd which attends bullfights is for the major part composed of the King of Spain and the royal family, politicians, and many other wealthy families linked to rural livestock, hunting and the Church as well as many families that are nostalgic of the old Franco regime." As such, "las corridas" are the symbol of the Spanish conservatism and the old catholic nationalism."

Bullfighting attracts the media and is a profitable economic activity, which partly explains the lack of political will to abolish bullfighting. 'La tauromaquia' is not only subsidized by the state but also by almost all political parties. According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) in 2008 it was estimated that the European parliament currently paid a subsidy of 220 euros per animal to breeders of fighting bulls, which – along with local subsidies in the bullfighting countries – is keeping the industry alive. There are more than 1,200 government funded bull ranches and dozens of state-sponsored bullfighting schools in Spain. Most political parties, especially the People's Party (Partido Popular (PP)), have declared, with pride, bullfighting as a 'Bien de Interes Cultural' (BIC) (public interest's good) and treat bullfighting as art and culture, which is why, according to Caballero, it is difficult to achieve legislation prohibiting such activities.

Factory farming VS Bullfighting

Still, bullfighting represents fewer animals killed, than battery farming. There are several cases of abuses and situations in which animals in battery farms have been found mistreated, jam-packed in sheds or cages and living in unsanitary conditions, removed from any means to run freely, or even turn around or lay down, according to PETA.

Not that he agree with factory farms but Caballero argues that "it is different to bullfighting because bullfighting represents the celebration of suffering, the ultimate barbaric act of Men on animals whereas battery farmed animals came about, ethically or not, to fulfill one of the most basic human needs, to eat."

For him the underlying cause of the problem is people's attitude in regards to the mistreatment of animals they can directly witness in bullfighting. "If the majority of Spanish applauds or thinks that it's good to protect and conserve these kinds of traditions, and if many see in bullfighting a form of art or if they are indifferent to the suffering of animals, torture of animals, how is our main objective of improving the status of animals in the farms even possible?"

He explains further that "for people who pay to enjoy the spectacle of animals being tortured savagely until death it might not matter whether or not a chicken has enough space in a farm, if their idols are torreros, or if according to them, the agony of bulls is a tradition that needs to be preserved." If the government allows such torture, and even make money out of it, for pure 'pleasure 'and 'art' how can we expect more ethical legislation on battery farming?

But does the ethical problem arise from the purpose of torturing and killing animals for 'art' or for food? Or does it come from the fact that millions everyday turn a blind eye on what they eat and where it comes from? Sometimes visible and sometimes not, the suffering of animals is real and happening.

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Comments from our readers

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Cristina Parker

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I am half Spanish and remember my mother insisting that animals do not have souls, a notion peddled by the Church as the Bible says that man was given dominion over all creatures. On a visit to Spain when I was a little girl, I remember my tears as a wasps nest was destroyed by a blow torch and my refusal to join my relatives at a bullfight. I have never accepted man's inhumanity and never will.

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