Bullfighting is cruel

Bullfighting is perhaps the most well known spectator “sport” involving the killing of animals for entertainment. For British tourists in the 1970s and 1980s, going to a bullfight was almost seen as a ‘must do’ part of a holiday in Spain. But gradually the awareness of what actually happens at a bullfight has increased, ripping away the idea that bullfighting is ‘art’ and exposing it for the cruel sport that it really is.

Public opinion in each bullfighting country and elsewhere is now firmly behind banning bullfighting, and it has already been banned in most countries. But it still continues in nine countries - each year tens of thousands of bulls are maimed, tortured and killed for entertainment in Spain, Portugal, France, Colombia, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. Polling by Ipsos Mori in 2016 found that 58% of adults in Spain oppose bullfighting, compared to 19% who support it.

What is a bullfight?

Bullfighting involves professional performers (generally called in Spanish toreros or matadores, in Portuguese toureiros and in French toreadors) who perform in a bullring executing various formal moves with the goal of appearing graceful and confident, while masterful and domineering over the bull. These manoeuvres are performed at close range, concluding (in Spanish-style bullfighting) with the death of the bull by a sword thrust.

There are several styles of bullfighting, but in a typical Spanish style bullfight, the animal is attacked by men on foot and on horseback with lances and barbed harpoons called “banderillas”. The matador forces the confused, exhausted and injured bull to make a few charges before eventually attempting to kill it with a sword. If not killed outright, the animal is stabbed in the back of the neck with a dagger until it is paralysed and finally dies. The animal may still be conscious when its ears or tail are cut off and given as a trophy to the bullfighter who killed it.

The French and Portuguese styles are sometimes called ‘bloodless bullfights’. Although some variations of these do not always involve the drawing of blood, the bulls are still abused, stressed and exhausted, and often still killed in private rather than in public.

However, not all bullfighting in France is of a French-style and the Spanish style is becoming more popular there. In the USA and Ecuador some other types of so called “bloodless bullfights” have been developed, but we believe that they are all still cruel. Killing the bull is the ultimate form of cruelty to the bull, but the cruelty starts the moment the bull arrives at the ring’s holding pen and goes through the entire show, not only during the killing.

The animals involved in bullfighting suffer immensely, and all in the name of human entertainment, with a false claim that this public torture or execution has become ‘art’ and ‘cultural heritage’ that needs preserving . The League campaigns for a complete ban on this cruel and outdated sport, in each country and in any of its forms, including the so-called “bloodless bullfights”.

Bullfight in Madrid

Bull Running Festivals

The ‘running of the bulls’ is a practice which involves letting loose bulls or cows to run with and in front of jeering crowds along a designated route to their final destination, often the bull ring. 

These events happen in many countries and take many forms, some of which involve the use of ropes, fire or water. The bull run for the San Fermin fiesta in Pamplona (northern Spain) is the most famous of these events, attracting thousands of international tourists each year.

The Pamplona Bull Run

The Pamplona Bull Run takes place every year between the 6th July and 14th July. It’s a sad fact that many participants will be British tourists, as well as Americans, Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders. Thanks to the promotion of this cruelty from travel operators, some of whom are based in the UK, tourism is helping to keep this brutal and outdated tradition alive.

Even though the fiesta is often described by tour operators as ‘a spectacle not to be missed’, the harsh reality is that the spectacle they are referring to is based on savagery and cruelty, with no regard for the welfare of the animals at the centre of attention.

In previous years the League Against Cruel Sports has convinced a number of travel operators to cease promotion of this cruel festival. We welcomed the move by Airbnb, GetYourGuide, KAYAK, EasyJet and TripAdvisor, to cease website promotion of the event. Prior to that we welcomed a similar move by Topdeck Travel and STA Travel the year before.

But sadly not all travel operators have followed suit. We are disappointed that First Festival, PP Travel, Festival Adventures, The Backpacker Tour Company and Stoke Travel still continue to promote this animal cruelty and have chosen to ignore our requests to cease promotion and sales to the festival.

What happens during the Pamplona Running of the Bulls? 

Each morning many bulls are forced to run a kilometre down the cobblestone streets of the town, chased by cheering participants and spectators. Once released, the bulls are frightened with gun shots and kicked and hit by jeering spectators, often down concrete or cobbled streets which they slip and slide on, occasionally suffering broken legs and other injuries in the process. 

The bulls are chased into a holding pen at the bull ring, to await their torture and deaths at the bullfight, called in Spanish ‘corrida de toros’ or simply ‘corrida’, that takes place later that evening.

A group of bulls in the Pamplona bull run

Time to end bullfighting

The pro-bullfighting lobby would have us believe that the ritualised execution of a condemned bull is ‘art and culture, a magical rite, a just and honourable way of life where man and bull combine to create unique and unrepeatable moments’. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Recently YouTube closed down channels devoted to Spain’s national fiesta, removing content showing bloody scenes of bulls being lanced by picadors, which it publicly categorised as animal abuse.

The international anti-bullfighting movement is growing in strength every year, and many local, regional or national bans have already been achieved. From the 17 autonomous regions of Spain, bullfighting has already been banned in two, the Canary Islands and Catalonia (although in the latter the Spanish Constitutional Court declared in 2016 the ban illegal, but the Catalan government has vowed to uphold the six-year old ban nevertheless).

The Balearic Islands have effectively banned bullfighting by introducing new animal welfare regulations which make it impossible to hold a bullfight. Galicia could follow suit. Many provinces in Ecuador have banned bullfighting after a referendum included a question about the ban, and the practice is already banned in over 90% of France. Several regions in Mexico and Venezuela have banned bullfighting; in Colombia it’s only legal in regions with a well established tradition and during specific seasons. In 2018 the parliament approved a law to ban bullfighting that needs to be ratified by the Colombian senate.

We believe that if campaigning by the League Against Cruel Sports and many other passionate organisations continues, the abolition of bullfighting is near.

How can I help to end bullfighting?

  • You can write to First Festival, PP Travel, Festival Adventures, The Backpacker Tour Company and Stoke Travel, asking them to stop profiting from Pamplona, by removing Running of the Bulls tours from the tour packages they offer to travellers.
  • Have you spotted any other travel companies promoting the Pamplona Bull Run? Tourism is propping up this archaic ‘tradition’, but together we can help bring in to an end.
  • If you have seen any companies promoting this brutal event online, in travel brochures or in-flight magazines then we want to hear from you. Please get in contact and send us links, please take a photo of the magazine or other promotional material you see, and send it to us with as much information about it as you can (such as the company promoting it, where and when you found it, etc).
  • You can email us at [email protected] or tweet us @leagueacs.
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