The Central Debate
- Bullfights represent an ethical, moral, and also religious problem.
- Bullfights are based on negative emotions. They are distinguished as an anachronism and continuation of a cruel age from the past, in which people were entertained by watching the suffering of animals and other brutalities committed with human beings as well. These practices continue to reinforce the idea that animals are nothing more than things which we may use at our whim and even take advantage of their suffering as part of a spectacle for public entertainment.
- Emotions (the capacity to feel and suffer) are common in all mammals since they also comprise a common part of the cerebral structures that produce them and the genes that codify them.
- Bulls belong to the ruminant species and to the bovine family; they are peaceful animals with a genetic psychology specialised in escape not in attack.
- Hence, bullfights and all spectacles that involve torture and cruelty against living creatures have the following result: unjustifiable, degrading, counter-productive and anti-educational.
- These are the main reasons to eradicate bullfights: to liberate the bulls from the atrocious penalty that they suffer, torture in a public bullring, and a death with suffering.
- Violence is always violence, independently of the victim on which it is exercised. The custom of violence towards animals facilitates the transfer of violence towards other objectives. Those who become accustomed to mistreatment can become insensitive to suffering in general.
- Exclusive anthropocentric behaviour is a moral error the same as sexism, classism, racism or any other discriminatory posture.
- Bullfights generate a process of insensitivity and the absence of empathy in the spectators. Outstanding thinkers, theologians, scientists, and authors such as: St. Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Josep Plá, and even Ernest Hemingway left a record of this negative psychological process.
- From a psychological perspective, the notion of torture in the bull goes far beyond mistreatment and aggression. It has been associated with an idea, a purpose, in the hands of the torturer. Exploiting its biology, the bull is deceived without enough time for learning to take place and it is killed when it is at the limit of its physical and behavioural forces.
- The artistic values: identity, gender, religion, country, cultural and folkloric aspects of bullfighting are founded on psychological and moral negation. There is evidence during the bullfight that torture is exercised on an animal which is at the mercy of the systematic and professional application of physical and behavioural punishment.
- Empathy is a quality which is developed by means of social consciousness. Consequently, more policies must be implemented in the family, academic, audiovisual and mass media spheres which promote attitudes of respect and recognition not just for people but also for animals.
- Bullfights have a negative influence on education and prejudice moral learning. Our moral learning plays a role in our relationship with animals. If we learn to mistreat animals then we learn that mistreatment is correct behaviour whereas if we learn to respect animals, then we are sensitive to their pain and we understand their needs; in general, it develops our capacity for empathy, compassion, and responsibility. In the long term, this learning converts us into persons with a greater level of moral development.
- Another reason is represented by the serious fact that Spain is a country where one can learn to torture by means of institutions such as the 43 bullfighting schools which are subsidised with public funds.
- Spain has a low educational level. In each new report on education that is realised, the results place Spain at the end of the queue in Europe. There is poor reading comprehension level, little knowledge of foreign languages, and a high index of school leavers. Notions of respect for animals and the environment or the theory of evolution are not taught in secondary education. Knowledge of our role in the ecosystems is not taught, however there are bullfighting “schools”. The Bullfighting sector seeks and obtains protection from many Cultural Institutions in our country.
- Although the immense majority of Spanish men and women are clearly against this spectacle, the upper class levels of our society continue to protect the bullfighting sector.
- Even now in Spain, they attempt to traumatise and alienate the people who openly declare their opposition to bullfights. This is perceived at the citizens and autonomous communities level such as the case in Catalonia. This same circumstance is highlighted at the personal or professional level by various specialists and experts in the educational, artistic, journalistic, legal and political sectors.
- Bullfights cannot form part of a modern Europe.
- Bullfights are observed from European countries as a spectacle of brutality.
- European citizens do not agree that their taxes help to finance this spectacle.
- The cattle-raising sector for the purpose of bullfighting and mistreatment of bulls must cease to be subsidised.
- The bullfighting lobby has monopolised Spain’s Bullfighter image, where they want European forums to understand that all or the huge majority of Spaniards are fans of the bullfights.
The mass media.
- The majority of mass media do not record or show the statistical proportion of the opinions or criteria that correspond to the majority of citizens against bullfights.
- The majority of the mass media unilaterally and exclusively promotes and rewards bullfighting by means of permanent spaces, reports, and bullfighting news articles.
- Likewise, there are pro-bullfighting groups which limit or filter the communication of the numerous complaints filed by the citizens who are against this practice.
- Several of the most recent and obvious examples of this are represented by the failure of the mass media and press to communicate the recent constitution of the “Asociación Parlamentaria en Defensa de los Derechos de los Animales” (Parliamentarian Association in Defence of Animal Rights) in the Spanish Parliament, in contrast with the major mass media attention which was awarded to the Bullfighter, José Tomas, with the aim to reactivate the interest in bullfights. Paradoxically, several radio stations have refused to broadcast radio spots which denounce the cruelty of bullfights, where they base their negative response on the decisive support which is provided by sponsoring bullfights or related festivities.
- The majority of the mass media do not occupy a neutral position; on the contrary, they are committed and serve the diverse economic interests in relation to the bullfighting spectacles.
- It is necessary to influence the regulation and normalisation of the social perception of animals by means of mass media.
- At present, the mass media represents a huge factory for the construction of social perception. For this reason, they have a huge responsibility concerning this topic.
- It is necessary to demand and make sure that television stations eliminate the broadcasts which involve mistreatment or torture of animals, and likewise suppress any type of publicity which contains images which incite violence against them.
- Specific individual attitudes by several public celebrities in relation to their enthusiasm for bullfights, in addition to indicating a lack of consideration towards animals, represent a negative example and generate frustration in many citizens.
- There should be no financing for projects or publications of programmes, series, films, or documentaries that incite this type of violence.
- The mass media should adopt a code of professional ethics concerning the environment and defence of animals which they must fulfil, respect, and defend.
- A specific observatory is also necessary to track the broadcasts of the television stations and a protocol for the programming and publication, especially the public mass media institutions.
- Ecological and animal rights values must be introduced in control figures such as defenders of spectators and readers, so that they can assist supervisors and specialists to formulate their criteria.
- All public activity is education and the mass media has a responsibility in this sense.
The bullfighting spectacle: business, ideology, and decadence.
- Bullfighting is primarily based on two reasons: its supposed ideological value associated with the Spanish identity and the economic interests which are generated by the profits of the bullfighting business for cattle-raisers, entrepreneurs, and bullfighters.
- In the bullfighting sector, there is a tendency to use symbols, which include artistic expression, tradition, and nationalism.
- Bullfights are a business; however, it is a business which is not self-financed and it has been distorted due to the significant investment of public funds which are allocated for its maintenance. Its continuity would not be feasible without the huge subsidies that this business receives.
- It is also one of the businesses which receives the most incentives and promotions from the State Administration. The Government subsidises the construction and maintenance of bullrings, cattle-raising facilities, pastures, bullfighting schools, communication and publicity, radio and television broadcasts, exhibits, bullfighting conferences, bullfighting authorities, etc. No other spectacles related to cinema, theatre, literature, music or the promotion of sports possess such a major volume of public assistance.
- In addition to being heavily subsidised by public funds, it also receives economic aid from European funds.
- There is a myth that surrounds certain qualities classified as “bullfighting”; at present, the number of bullfighting spectators continues to decline. Of the 11,000 seat capacity which its bullring possesses, half of its audience is occupied by foreigners.
- The Bullfighting sector does not hesitate to invent false arguments in order to justify itself and avoid the moral debate.
- The fallacies which the bullfighting supporters claim include false statements linked to politics, separatism, patriotism, the flag, and the national holidays which attempt to confuse and deceive public opinion.
The conservation of pastures and bulls.
- The supposed problems involved in the conservation of pastures has been used by bullfighting sectors as an argument which justifies the continuation of this spectacle, these allegations are not true nor are they linked to the maintenance of bullfights at all.
- Bulls can be conserved if there is an effective interest and will to conserve them. For the conservation of pastures and cattle-raising ranches, it is not necessary, much less essential, for bulls to participate in bullfights and be tortured.
- If public funds currently invested to maintain and promote the bullfighting spectacle are allocated to the conservation of pastures, these ecosystems would be comparatively eighteen times more economically protected than they are at present. (The average investment which the Spanish State allocates for the conservation of the ecosystem ranges from 60-80 euros per hectare. With the funds invested in bullfights, the investment for the protection of pastures would exceed 1,200 euros per hectare.)
- The conservation of pastures and bulls also encompasses other sustainable resources such as for example, the cattle-raiser resources or those dedicated to the cork trees to commercialise cork.
- The protection of bulls as a specie must be the same as for many other species. There is no absolute genetic determinism in relation to the denominated “brave bull” or “fighting bull”, since they involve a bovine group which has a multiple racial origin. These types of cattle-raising facilities exist for commercial purposes and the specimens destined to the bullfighting spectacle are selected based on their atavistic and temperamental instinct for defence in their conflicts and nuptial or territorial combat.
- The continual cross-breeding between different specimens and breeds for commercial purposes and bullfights has had a negative influence and has contributed to the disappearance of indigenous breeds.
- Bullfights are a remnant of the barbaric customs that originated and developed during several centuries in Europe. At present, this business is based on torture and it has discarded ethics and morals, it lacks truthful arguments which are in harmony with our contemporary age.
- Due to the pressure from the bullfighting lobbies and their interest to perpetually maintain this spectacle, this damages the common interest of all animals and a legal vacuum continues to exist in the recognition of their defence and protection.
- Many politicians who sympathise with animal well-being feel pressured, conditioned, and intimidated by the bullfighting lobby, in order to openly express their criteria.
- In several political and parliamentary sectors, the perception is maintained that in the topics related to animals and more specifically the bullfights, it is not advisable to intervene due to its impact on their voters.
- The initiatives which are proposed in favour of animals fail to prosper and they are almost always rejected by the majority groups.
- The “capacity of the bullfighting lobby exists and hence, the politician always submits to these pressures.
- The politician does not provide a response to the majority of his/her voters in relation to their demands for the defence of animals and the environment.
- It is necessary for politics to adapt to the sensitivity and aspirations of the great majority of these citizens as repeatedly shown in the surveys.
- Society demands courage from its politicians and expects firm commitments from the parliamentary forces, since they are precisely the people who have the real capacity to change things.
- The performed studies and surveys repeatedly show that the attitudes which are the highest valued and of most interest to citizens are the defence of human rights, defence of nature, and the defence of animals since these defence attitudes are considered to lack any private or party interest.
- In the case of Catalonia, the aspiration to eliminate bullfights has become even more visible by means of successive campaigns and opinion polls.
- In Catalonia, despite the importance of the Animal Protection Law of 22/2003 which has changed the former approach by recognising animals as organisms that possess physical and psychic sensitivity which makes them worthy of the fundamental right not to suffer even restricting the spectacles with the injury and death of animals, it has made a shameful exception of the bullfights.
- The Catalonia Parliament has been petitioned in the present legislative year to take up the proposal again for the modification of the Animal Protection Law so that Catalonian law ceases to contemplate this exception for bullfights.
- The Catalonian Parliamentary Group, CIU, has publicly expressed in the International Conference “Bullfights: Union against cruelty”, their firm commitment not to impede the processing of this initiative nor to oppose it so that it can be subject to debate, and likewise, they promise to provide their representatives with the freedom to vote.
- The Catalonian Parliamentary Group, ICV and EUA have promised by a Fax remitted to the International Conference to “work in line with the commitments stated in the Manifesto of the International Conference: Bullfights: Union against cruelty.
- Since the approval of the first Animal Protection Law in 1988, which limited the construction of new bullrings in Catalonia, it has been necessary to maintain a continual and reiterated legal battle against the bullfighting sector which has attempted to prevent its fulfilment by various tactics.
- Many of the bullrings which were built as tourist attractions in the tourist towns of Catalonia have failed and have had to be demolished.
- The bullfights in Catalonia and the rest of Spain have had a very negative influence on the progress and approval of legislation in favour of the protection of animals, which places us on a lower level than the most advanced cultures in the rest of Europe.
- From the legislative perspective, it is a contradiction that Catalonian Law recognises animals as organisms that possess physical and psychic sensitivity and yet permits the performance of a public spectacle based on animal suffering and execution.
- At present, the Catalonian Parliament has the parliamentary majority to subject the elimination of bullfights to vote. Nevertheless, this has not been done due to political reasons.
- This is not a very sustainable argument since it wishes to justify the lack of a parliamentary decision which makes it possible to eliminate bullfights by appealing to supposedly progressive reasons related to the prohibition, since it is a well known fact that progressive countries and laws have eradicated this type of abuse against living beings.
- It is also not justifiable that specific sentences from the Law Courts have given priority to artistic freedom, thereby justifying the fact of performing public torture of an animal.
- It is difficult to comprehend that in Barcelona, a city which has declared that it is against bullfights – with an anti-bullfighting position- its bullring continues to operate and celebrate the same tortures.
- The pertinent Administrative governments have also failed to exercise the necessary controls for the reiterated and well-known violations which the Bullfighting Regulation itself infringes as well as all the manipulation that is performed on the bulls that participate in bullfights with the aim to weaken and disorient them and thus represent a minor danger for the bullfight.
Suffering and cruelty.
- The bullfighting sector has repeatedly attempted to deny the bull’s suffering by resorting to scientific studies which can support this hypothetical theory. A study carried out and endorsed by the veterinarian, Dr. Illera appeared in a bullfighting publication and different mass media channels with this objective.
- The aforementioned study has not been published in a complete form in any scientific magazine, consequently it is only possible to access these conclusions provided by the author himself. Consequently, it lacks scientific rigor.
- Based on what has been published, we observe data which appears to be incorrect based on scientific evidence, clinical practice, and common sense.
- The study runs the risk of not being valid due to a series of methodological problems which should have been classified earlier and above all, it is necessary to notify the mass media channels with large-scale communication in order to prevent this message from being incorrectly interpreted or voluntarily mistaken. In relation to the pain which bulls suffer and their capacity to feel it, all the specialists who attended the Conference coincide on the following points from their respective disciplines and specialities in medicine, veterinary science, and ethology (animal behaviour):
- Pain is a defence mechanism which makes it possible for a living being to escape when its integrity is in danger. It has been demonstrated- that all living beings – with the possibility of movement- feel some form of pain although not all animals suffer pain in the same way.
- It has also been demonstrated that mammals suffer pain in a very similar way and many of the pain transmission mechanisms are similar for human beings and higher mammals.
- Investigations have shown that bullfights are much more stressful and painful for the animals than a death induced by humanitarian methods.
- Biology has always chosen the actions which permit the survival of the specie. When facing an intense pain, it feels pain, never pleasure, because the animal must flee from danger.
- In a scientific scope, it is never possible to consider the endomorphines level as equal to the analgesia level.
- The scientific data on bullfights coincides with the criteria that the bulls suffer intense pain and considerable stress during the bullfight. A process which is prolonged approximately 20 minutes.
- There are many diverse causes of stress and suffering. These causes include a completely foreign and unknown environment, exhaustion, multiple injuries, and a prolonged intentional death. The lance causes 1 to 3 wounds and based on the study carried out in 1999 on 90 bulls, 94% of the times, the picador was mistaken and may have caused fractures of the “spinous apophysis, fractures in the ribs and haemorrhages which could be infiltrated in the medular canal”. The average depth of each lance wound is between 18-20 centimetres, the total would amount to 62 centimetres of wounds and blood loss equivalent to 2.5 litres. The “banderillas” (pointed spikes) produce more injuries, pain, and exhaustion. The “estocada” or death blow, in the case that is done correctly, can be compared with a sacrifice within a slaughterhouse although in poor conditions, however when the bullfighter does not succeed in the first blow, the process can be prolonged and repeated in a consecutive way for several minutes longer.
- The bull also suffers fear, anguish, and anxiety during the transport and transfer to the bullring.
- Before and during the bullfight, many bulls suffer other types of traumatisms and manipulations that are painful, stressful, or which alter their normal conduct. They include the process of manipulation of their horn tips (“shaved”), blows, and shocks as well as other injuries of diverse kinds which are difficult to quantify.
- The horse is another one of the victims in this entire torture process.
- Veterinarians as well as the medical profession should possess an Ethical Code which allows them to object based on their conscience as a response to all the pressures and irregularities, as well as their rejection, to the cruel process which takes place during a bullfight.
Art, literature, and cruelty.
- Art is a subjective fact which contains symbolic elements and is an abstraction of reality.
- Art is distinguished as a simulation, an artifice in which reality is not considered art. In the bullfighting ritual, we encounter a real process and not a simulated situation.
- Bullfighting fans also defend the idea that bullfighting is an art, they introduce their own ideologies in reference to “the art of killing”, the “aesthetic shock” as well as the identity ideology of “nationality” or “patriotism”.
- Based on this premise, we can also consider that the Roman Circus was also an artistic expression. An art designed to kill someone, however they must be killed well. Nevertheless, the executioners despite their special social status were never considered to be artists.
- Bullfighting uses ritual as a type of protection and it easily appropriates the symbols which can justify it. It uses beauty, artistic value, the pleasure produced by contemplating the bullfight or it denies the animal’s suffering.
- The bullfighting ideology founded on mistreatment, on occasions, reacts with criticism and attacks against those who question or reject bullfights.
- In the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan mythologies and in the Scandinavian civilizations, the bull has been considered as a sacred animal and it was considered as a god in the Mediterranean civilizations. It is a symbol of nature and virility. In Spain, starting from a specific age, it lost this quality and became the sacrificed god.
- If the bull is a symbol of nature, then the bullfighting spectacles are continually carrying out its destruction and enjoying its downfall. The meaning of this fact, linked with the future of our planet, is alarming at minimum.
The organisers wish to express their enormous gratitude and satisfaction with the development of the Conference. For the quality and interest of the lectures, the high public attendance, and the questions which were raised in the debate phase; we also thank the 47 Federations, Associations, Commissions, and Platforms that have participated in the Congress and to all those who have collaborated in a lesser or greater degree in the success of this event, they have contributed a huge amount of new knowledge which confirms the inevitable necessity to absolutely abolish bullfights and likewise, any other spectacle based on the suffering and torture of an animal.
ADDA, Barcelona and WSPA, London.