Any Spaniard who has travelled for some time abroad may have faced the question: “What do you think about bullfighting?” This can be difficult to answer, as it is a sensitive topic amongst many Spaniards.
Bullfighting has been a Spanish tradition ever since the 12th century, but at the same time, it has been a controversial topic as well. There are many people who defend bullfighting, claiming that it is an art and an integral part of our culture, enough that it should be protected.
However, detractors have become more active over the last decades as people have become more sensitive to animal rights. In this article I will discuss the different types of bullfighting today.
When we think about “bullfighting”, the typical bullfight is what comes to mind. That is, an event in the bullring where the crowd encourages a bullfighter that is in the ring fighting against the bull. Bullfighters are usually helped by picadores or bullfighter’s assistants and banderilleros who prepare the bulls for the next stage. In the final part of the bullfight, the bull is normally killed. Bullfights can last from 90 up to 180 minutes, as that is the time it normally takes for three bullfighters to fight against six bulls.
Encierros and Bous al carrer
These are two examples of the other kinds of bullfighting you can find in Spain. The main difference between the encierros and bous al carrer compared to the typical bullfight is that these are basically celebrated in the streets and not in the bullring. In addition, in these celebrations, the bull does not die in the end.
The most popular encierros in Spain are the encierros de San Fermín or Sanfermines in Pamplona, a city in the north of Spain. This celebration happens every 7th of July, and people from all around the world fly into Spain just to observe its festivities. The tradition involves setting up an itinerary in the streets (which is usually the same every year), and letting loose bulls and cows, which people run in front of in a frenzy race around town streets.
The second example is Bous al carrer. The Bous al carrer, which literally mean “bulls in the street”, are celebrated mostly in the east part of Spain. These bulls are released around a variety of streets around town, and similarly, people run in front of them for some time, waiting for the next bull that comes after.
In these celebrations, it is forbidden to hurt the animals in any way (jumping on them or hitting them with a stick is not allowed, for instance). These bulls are repeatedly released throughout the celebrations, and it has become popular every year.
A Long-established Tradition
Bullfighting is a long-established tradition in Spain, and therefore it is especially popular among people in their fifties and older. People who like bullfighting, defend it as an art. They claim that the bullfighter’s techniques and movements, the ritual in itself, and its popular history are among many reasons that bullfighting has made a significant impression on Spanish culture.
In fact, many famous bullfighters are treated and respected in the same way celebrities are! Through this we can confidently say that the bullfighting tradition is quite ingrained into many people.
Many organisations have condemned bullfighting, stating that it is a cruel practice that involves significantly hurting animals. According to them, bullfighting violates the most quintessential animal rights and organisations like PETA and political parties in Spain demand that the government act upon these acts of cruelty, prohibiting these celebrations.
They believe bullfighting is torture and assert that a tradition based on violence and cruelty cannot be declared as “culture”.
On a personal note, I believe that bullfighting has been an important tradition in the Spanish culture for centuries. However, times have changed, and in this day and age, tradition has been lost and put out of place in a world where people have a new set of values in which they adhere to—values which preserve the idea of respect for living beings.
What do you think? Have you ever been in a bullfight or encierro?