In an online discussion about the death of matador Victor Barrio, gored by the bull Lorenzo, a Spanish poster defended bullfighting with the claim that it was less cruel than the animal being killed in a slaughter house as the bull dies an honourable death. Somehow i think the finer points of honour are lost on a bull that has been slowly tortured before finally being put out of its misery for the entertainment of a cheering crowd. The point was also raised that if the bull is thought to have fought well then it is allowed to live and is sent away into retirement, however actually winning the fight by killing the matador is obviously not good enough as not only was Lorenzo killed but tradition dictates that his line must die out, so the cow that gave birth to him was also sent to be slaughtered. So much for honour and tradition.
Lets us now examine other forms of animal abuse and torture that have a long tradition, and appear to be regarded as good fun for all the family. Remember this is happening in a European nation, now, in the 21st century.
“Toro de la Vega” in Tordesllas
In a festival that goes back into history a bull is chased through Tordesillas by men carrying spears, who one by one lance the bull as he attempts to defend himself. When the pain, blood loss, and /or exhaustion finally overwhelms the animal and he collapses, not necessarily dead, the man judged to be the “winner” cuts off the bulls testicles and has them for dinner. Good family fun for all. This festival was actually declared illegal for several years but apparently it was legalised again in 1999.
“San Vicente de Martir Festival” in Manganeses de la Polyorosa
In this “festival”, which happens every year on the fourth Sunday in January, a goat is thrown from the top of the church bell tower. The crowd below attempt to catch the goat in a sheet. Should the goat escape death from the fall it is drowned in the town fountain. Actually animal rights groups can class this one as a “victory” as since 2002 participants face a large fine should they attempt to use a live goat in their fun and games.
“The Pero Palo Festival” in Villanueva de la Vera
In this festival a donkey is dragged through the crowded streets of the village, where it is subject to abuse. The villagers yell and chant and the poor creature, the donkey is frequently slapped, it is terrified with shotgun blasts, the animals has firecrackers explode between its legs, and finally beaten with cow bells. If the donkey should happen to collapse during this ordeal it is hoisted up to start over again. Finally the exhausted animal is locked in a shed. Often the poor donkey will die of stress during its ordeal, or will gets crushed and suffocated by the enthusiastic crowd. This spectacle is said to reenact the arrest of a rapist who was paraded through the streets on a donkey before his execution by stoning.
“The Hanging of the Galgos”
In rural Spain hunting is a popular pastime where Greyhounds known as Galgos are used to hunt hare. At the end of the hunting season there are thousands of dogs with now no use and so they are hung by their thousands in village trees, or just abandoned to starve. It has been reported that some hunters choose to stone their dogs, or drown them in wells, some even just burn them. Every year it is estimated tens of thousands galgos are disposed of every year, treated as disposable tools rather than living creatures.
“Toro Jublio Festival” in Medinaceli
Every November the citizens of the small town of Medinaceli throw a party. A bull is tied to a post so that is unable to move, and large balls of tar and pitch are stuck to his horns, this is then lit. The bull is then released into the town street to the entertainment of its citizens. As can be expected the terrified creature runs amok, often running straight into walls in an attempt to extinguish the flames. The bull of course suffers burns to his horns, face, and eyes. This tradition is of ancient origin, thought even to have originated in the Bronze Age.
Seeing these few annual examples of animal torture carried out for the entertainment of the crowds, and the other thousands of festivals, some carried out in the name of religion, which involve the abuse of animals, is it any wonder some Spaniards regard the torture and death of bulls in the arena to be an honourable death, worthy of a family day out and live television coverage.