In Latin America and Europe combined, approximately 250,000 bulls die each year. Do these bulls fall prey to a deadly virus, perhaps? Far from it. The bulls are tortured and killed for the sake of entertainment. Have we evolved at all since the Roman times?
Latest polls show that over 72% of Spanish citizens have no interest in bullfighting, yet, because of a small group of influential people in Spain, this inhumane tradition is being kept alive. Fortunately, in Europe and Latin America a growing segment of the population is standing up against bullfighting and calling for an end to this cruel spectacle.
Here to talk about bullfighting and what we can do to help is Alyx Dow, Programmes Officer (Anti-Bullfighting) for the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
Thank you for this interview, Alyx. Could you start by giving us some historical information on how bullfighting began? What is its origin?
There is not much specific information on how or where bullfighting began, but it is thought to date back to Roman times when many different species of animal were killed for the sake of entertainment in public arenas.
Bulls were also sacrificed for religious purposes and more recently, bullfights were (and often still are) held on Sundays, as part of Christian Saints festivals.
Most people associate bullfighting with Spain. Besides Spain, which other countries practice bullfighting?
Within Europe, bullfighting can be found in Spain, France, and Portugal. Approximately 40,000 bulls die in bullfights every year in Europe.
In Latin America, bullfighting can be found in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. ‘Bloodless’ bullfights can also be found in the USA. Approximately 210,000 bulls in bullfights die every year in Latin America.
Does bullfighting differ according to the country? If so, in what way?
There are three types of bullfighting ‘styles’ – Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The Spanish version is the most common across both Europe and Latin America. Bulls die in both the Spanish and Portuguese versions, although in the Portuguese style it happens behind the scenes, after the bullfight has finished. The French style does not lead to the death of the bull but is also very stressful for the animals involved.
A lot of people ignore what really happens during a bullfight. They have a simple, even romantic image of a torero taunting a bull and of one final thrust of the sword bringing death to the animal. What exactly takes place during a bullfight?