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Bullfighting - a hellish nightmare for animals
05 April 2007

A sickening account of a bullfight and the suffering it inflicts on animals. The graphic descriptions, though upsetting, clearly illustrate the horror of this blood sport. ICABS is renewing its appeal to Irish holidaymakers to avoid bullrings when holidaying abroad.

Bullfighting - a hellish nightmare for animals
by William Buchheit

“The only place where you could see life and death, i.e. violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring.” (Ernest Hemingway, “Death In the Afternoon”)

If only death was the worst thing about bullfighting. I can only hope that no other legal form of animal abuse in the world can rival the cruelty, torture and complete demoralisation demonstrated in these weekly events. What passes as art, sport, tradition and ritual in the stadiums of Portugal, Mexico, France and Spain is a brutality so cold, an evil so guiltless, and a savagery so surreal, it’s like being in the acidic grips of a nightmare.

Ever had a spinal tap? A doctor inserts a long needle between your third and fourth vertebrae and pushes. Once he feels a “give,” indicating your dura mater has been penetrated, he withdraws some of the fluid right out of your spinal chord. I underwent two such procedures nearly 13 years ago and the very memory is enough to shoot fear into my abdomen. Being a bull in one of these horror shows must be like getting a half-dozen spinal taps.

All the while, as the seconds of physical and mental annihilation drip away, a brass band beckons death with each note of their instruments.

Using long, sharp lances, an assistant on foot and another mounted atop a blindfolded horse spear the bull repeatedly in the neck, shoulders and spinal chord. Suddenly, the matador has a decisive upper-hand, as nerve damage, organ puncture, blood loss and terror slow the once formidable beast. Now even the slightest movements send hot jolts of pain through his harpooned muscles into his stupefied brain.

With chest heaving, head drooping and blood and urine leaking from its ravaged body, the bull can do little more than wait for the end to come. But death is patient, too patient, and the 20-year-old matador taunts the harmless animal as rabid fans chant, whistle and clap. As the killer grabs the fading animal’s horns, the warm blood reflects off his shiny uniform, glistening in the setting tangerine sun.

For a moment, the matador almost looks tender and compassionate, like a boxer who hugs his defenceless opponent in the corner instead of sending him to the operating table with a final ruthless shot.

Once he reaches for the sword, however, any illusions of humanity crumble. At last, the young man tries to finish the dying beast off by driving the sword into his racing, thudding heart. Only he can’t hit the mark.

So the animal stands and watches, bright blood leaking from his mouth, his head too heavy even to look his tormenter in the eyes. In the next interminable moments, the bull emits a series of horrible grunts as his lungs, spine and flesh are ripped apart like envelopes.

At last, the bull crumbles. His big black eyes bulge one last time as two thugs appear from below to finish him off. Using the arena wall as cover, they stab at the animal’s head and throat with knives small enough to fit in a child’s pocket.

The animal’s blood-soaked tongue creeps limply from his mouth and falls into the sand, as if trying to escape from some unmentionable hell. When the gasps and convulsions stop, the corpse is tied to two horses and dragged around the arena, leaving a snaking pink trail behind.

The crowd hoists white handkerchiefs in the air, chanting and applauding the matador as he takes a bow around the ring. The band blasts into a victory song.

As I rub my eyes, fight off a chill and try to swallow, the fans surrounding me continue to jump around and dance. A team of men sprint in to plough and rake the rink. The blood-sprayed sand is covered and smoothed.

And just when you start trying to forget what you just saw, the band fires up its Satanic call and another bull rushes through the gates into a hell all its own.

Bullfighting: Photos

Bullfighting scene 1
A picador thrusts a spear into the bull's back. (Photo: William Buchheit)

Bullfighting scene 2
The bull being speared during a bullfight. Horses (blindfolded to prevent them from seeing the bull running towards them) are often victims in bullfighting too. The thin cloak thrown over them provides little protection from a bull's horns. (Photo: William Buchheit)

Bullfighting scene 3
A matador prepares to make an attempt at plunging a sword between the bleeding and exhausted bull's shoulder blades and into its heart. (Photo: William Buchheit)

Bullfighting scene 4
Heartless bullring thugs finish the bull off by stabbing a dagger into its head and throat. (Photo: William Buchheit)

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