EspañolBullfighting is once again making headlines Colombia, following the reopening of the Plaza de Toros in Bogotá that caused anti-bullfight advocates protesting in the streets.
A few years ago, then-Mayor Gustavo Petro prohibited bullfighting, essentially exiling it to Manizales, Cali or Medellín if people really wanted to enjoy the passion. Constitutional courts declared the ban illegal and ordered La Santamarí to be reopened.
On January 22, more than 10,000 supporters of the decision filled the streets of the plaza shouting “freedom,” but then suffered the violent harassment of hundreds of anti-bullfighting activists who, far from expressing their disagreement in a peaceful and educated way, did not hesitate to insult and attack the attendees.
Bullfighting culture dates as far back as 23,000 BC, some cave paintings showing a man facing a brave bull, and for centuries, the different cultures of the Mediterranean shared in their fascination for the hunting of the bull, often turned into a mythological animal. Over time, ancestral rites evolved and gave rise to the modern bullfight.
In that modern bullfight, the epic is merged with aesthetics. The bullfighter, the hero of the show, must deal with the bull with the aid of a cloak or a crutch to reduce the speed of attacks. It’s about dancing with death, exhibiting elegance and naturalness before a brave bull that weighs over 1,000 pounds. The fighter is always moving between art and tragedy.
Bullfighting culture is still alive in Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, but those who oppose it continue to threaten the sport. Though the enemies of the Fiesta Brava believe that they act in the name of modernity, the truth is that bullfights have always gone against the current. In Europe, the first measures against bullfighting date back to the 13th century. In Mexico and Peru, restrictions were decreed in the sixteenth century. Bullfights have always generated controversy, have always been a transgressive art that not everyone understands.
If bullfighting culture is still standing, it is because attempts to end bullfighting have always been met with the cry of freedom by millions of people who attend the events. The last three Nobel Laureates in Literature awarded to Spanish-speaking authors were bullfighting enthusiasts: Spaniard Camilo José Cela, Colombian Gabriel García Márquez and Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa.
Arguments against bullfights
Opponents of bullfighting often present decontextualized images of a dead bull, which does not capture the essence of an actual bullfight. The best way to dismantle this propaganda is to go to the event to see in person why so many people are fond of it.
Opponents want to protect the bull, but surveys show that fewer and fewer bullfights are resulting in the bull’s death. These animals are not mistreated. Go to any cattle ranch and see the privileged life these animals live while being raised.
For every six animals raised in pasture, only one ends up fighting. How is that selection made? First by genetics, and then it is tested psychologically. Cattlemen arrive and then there are veterinary examinations and discussions about whether to approve or discard the bull.
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Then two more tests are done in front of spectators: the puyazo, which is a test of bravery conducted by the picador, and then the flag test. If the animal flees or does not put up a fight, it will be returned to the pens and never fight. Of course, none of this interests the opponents of bullfights, who prefer to speak of the bull as if it were a helpless, weak animal.
The thought process of many bullfighting opponents is quite radical. Not only because of what happened in Bogotá, but because of their theories about “animal liberation,” which argues that human beings should be understood legally as equivalent to an animal. With this logic, once bullfighting is banned, then hunting and fishing will soon follow. After that, we might as well all turn vegan or end all scientific experiments on animals.
The intolerance of the opponents of bullfighting must be fought with an ethical foundation in freedom based on respect for others.
In its next ruling, the Constitutional Court of Colombia must respect its own jurisprudence and thus guarantee the continued existence of bullfighting culture, without privileges but also without discrimination. The opponents of bullfighting are free to express their rejection, but not to impose their vision on the rest of society and also to resort to violence to defend their position.