“Barcelona is an anti-bullfighting city”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2004:
BARCELONA–Ernest Hemingway, in Death In The Afternoon
(1932), mentioned Barcelona as perhaps the only city where
bullfights could be watched all year round. Barcelona then supported
three of the world’s largest bullfighting stadiums –and tourists had
just barely begun to attend.
On April 5, 2004, the Barcelona city council voted by
secret ballot, 21-15 with two abstentions, in favor of a
non-binding resolution stating “Barcelona is an anti-bullfighting
city.” The vote affirmed a petition circulated by the Asociacion
Defensa Derechos Animal, signed by 250,000 Barcelona citizens.
Opinion polls showed that 63% of Barcelonians now disapprove
of bullfighting; 55% favored banning it.
The Barcelona resolution will not close La Monumental, the
last functioning bull ring in the city. About 100 bulls per year are
killed at La Monumental, chiefly to thrill tourists, in a season that
now runs from March through September. More bulls are killed only in
Madrid and Sevilla.
Bullfighting in Barcelona can actually be banned only by the Catalan
regional parliament. The Catalan parliament in mid-2003 barred
children under age 14 from attending bullfights, 18 months after
Mexico City restricted bullfight and cockfight attendance to persons
over 18 years of age.
BBC Madrid correspondent Danny Wood reported that the
Barcelona vote “reflects a feeling that bullfighting is incompatible
with Barcelona’s image as a city famous for art and architecture,”
and “expresses a Catalan desire to forge an identity separate from
Wood may have underestimated the growing strength of the
Spanish humane movement, not just in Catalan where reforming animal
control is also an ongoing hot issue, but throughout the nation.
Even 15 years ago, Spaniards donated a higher percentage of their
income to animal welfare than either Americans or other Europeans,
while polls indicated that bullfighting and cruelty linked to
religious festivals were “cultural traditions” that most Spaniards
would not defend.
Nor is this just a Spanish attitude. A bull ring is still
under construction at Congdo, South Korea, and Asian variants of
bullfighting are still practiced, often illegally, in parts of
Thailand, Japan, and India, but China Radio International reported
on April 2 that due to pressure from the Beijing city council a new
ring billed as the biggest in Asia will not be used for bullfighting.
Instead it will host circus and rodeo performances. The debut
bullfight was to have been held on May 1.
Polls indicate that between 69% and 84% of Chinese disapprove of bullfighting.
The decline of bullfighting and similar events would not have
surprised Heming-way, despite his own enthusiasm for bullfights.
Much of Death In The Afternoon explored opposition to bullfights.
Even more than 70 years ago, Hemingway found that many people from
every culture considered bullfighting intolerably cruel, especially
if they identify with the animal victims.
Hemingway did not deny the cruelty of bullfighting. He simply argued
that it served a higher purpose, exploring the paradox that he
enjoyed bullfighting while loving animals, adopting stray cats and
dogs and often aiding horses in distress on the street.
Hemingway acknowledged that in other contexts he abhorred much that
is done in bull rings. He frequently praised the character of the
men and women he knew who detested bullfights, then sought to
rationalize his own contrasting feelings.
Only decades later would studies of psychological trauma
categorize the common defenses of humans who are exposed to killing
in a manner clarifying Hemingway’s attitude. Some people distance
themselves, often through abuse of drugs and alcohol; some become
sadistic; some, like Hemingway, ritualize the experience,
persuading themselves that killing is for the greater good.
Hemingway in depicting bullfighting as an expiative ritual
followed the ancient pattern of Spanish culture itself. Over
centuries, the slaughter of unwanted bulls and bull calves evolved
from routine culling by primitive agrarian societies into stabbing or
burning the animals as “scapegoats,” ostensibly to rid the community
of evil spirits associated by the early Spanish Catholics with
paganism. In actuality the ritual mayhem may have served to reduce
qualms about killing animals, whether for meat or any other reason.
At first mobs did the killing. By late Roman times, however, the
guardians of public order sought to limit outbursts of mob violence
that spread to attacks on people and property by restricting active
participation in the bull-killing ritual to members of a priest-like
elite, complete with vestments.
Bullfighting in original form persists in the farra du boi
ritual still practiced in Brazil. Geologist Alan P. Marcus, a
Brazilian now living in Massachusetts, called farra do boi “one of
the most brutal and despicable human engagements in animal cruelty
today,” in a recent e-mail to ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Farra do boi has been outlawed since 1997,” Marcus said, “but the
governor of the state of Santa Catarina, where it occurs, refuses to
denounce it, defending it as tradition, and the farra do boi
continues to take place under silent watch. Onlookers and
participants stick broken glass into a bull or bullock’s anus to make
him buck more fiercely, and then beat and literally torture the oxen
until they die,” often tying fireworks to the animals, sometimes
setting them on fire.
“There have been 65 cases reported to the police this year in Santa
Catarina,” Marcus charged. “One case of the farra do boi is too
many, hence 65 is as astounding and unsettling as Brazil’s homicide
rate,” which has doubled in 15 years.
A form of farra do boi involving fireworks tied to bulls’
horns was still practiced in Santarem, Portugal, at the so-called
National Fair of Bulls, until February 2004, when the newspaper
Publico reported that it was banned by the General Inspector of