It was the 60's and I was teaching 5th grade in Chicago. Each grade had to put on a pageant of sorts and somehow, I decided that enacting a bull fight would be fun and interesting. Do I ever rue that decision today even though it was part of Spanish culture and we were studying Spain?
What I can't believe is that the people of Spain still today, with the exception of those living in Barcelona, haven't realized that it is a practice which is very cruel and unfair to the bull. Stuck with bandeleros, which cause copious blood loss, the bull is weakened. In my opinion - it is never a fair fight because, if it were, the bull I believe would always win.
I was glad that I told my students at the time about the classic - Ferdinand the Bull. For those who do not know the story, Ferdinand was picked out of an assembly of bulls being bred for the fights. He loved to smell flowers and this one time he sat on a flower on which a bee was sucking nectar. The bee naturally bit him and Ferdinand howled and promptly began to snort and run in frencied circles. Seeing this, the men charged to pick bull candidates were sure Ferdinand would be a great bull in the ring.
On the day of the fight, amidst all the fanfare and blowing of horns, Ferdinand trotted out. He was not snorting now nor was he in any hurry to do anything but sniff the flowers which were thrown into the ring. They could not raise anything resembling fury in him, and if I remember correctly, he even won the hearts of the crowd. Finally realing their mistake, the men returned him to the beautiful meadow where he could live his life thereafter, peacefully smelling the flowers he so loved. Yes, a fairy tale, but one which makes a whole lot of sense to people like me.
As a Catholic, I can tell you truthfully that I am ashamed that this spectacle is practiced not only in Spain but in other Catholic countries as well- including parts of Mexico. I am also ashamed at what I perceive is a silent church hierarchy. I consider mistreating animals a sin. Obviously, the church doesn't or is leaving it up to individual consciences.
Yesterday, I received an Action Alert from Care2 which asked us to take action by signing a petition which asked the President of Mexico to outlaw bullfighting in all of Mexico. Simone wrote: "This is not a sport. It is not a symbol of machismo as some people want to make it look like. It's a slow painfull death of a beautiful animal."
Bulls on Fire
I cringe at all other forms of animal abuse which is practiced in Spain. I read that they even brutalize innocent geese, goats, and donkeys at their religious festivals. These "religious" practices seem to me to smack of Voodoo - more than anything else. I read that even little children are taught to brutalize young bulls by throwing darts at them and these darts are made by Spanish nuns no less. Yes, you can't believe everything you read, but sadly I do give this credence because I have been reading about animal abuse in Spain for years.
I recently read about another horrible practice which is carried out every November 13. This annual savagery known as Toro de Jubilo (Bull of Fire) involves mobs chasing bulls they've set on fire. I thought I wouldn't ever read any more cruelty inflicted on these poor bulls, but I was wrong. Care2 asked us to sign the letter to the officials of Spain. This is the letter:
"Honorable Officials of Spain:
The Toro de Jubilo (Bull of fire) is a grotesque spectacle that draws protests and tourism boycotts from around the world. Yet it continues to annually occur in Medinaceli, a province of Soria, Spain.
In light of the recent (July 2010) ban on bullfighting in Spain's northeastern Catalonia region, I find it shocking that officials in Soria still let jeering mobs taunt a bull with balls of burning tar or turpentine affixed to his horns. Caked in mud from legs to forehead, the animal slowly scorches. Some smash into walls to escape hours of agony.
'Some traditions can't remain frozen in time as society changes,' Catalonian nationalist Jose Rull said when legislators voted to ban bullfighting. The Toro de Jubilo is frozen in time-an archaic and senseless brutalization of animals.
Please permanently cancel the Bull of Fire throughout Spain. I urge officials to enforce laws that shield animals from all forms of abuse, including vulgar rituals and blood fiestas.
Different cultures may not understand unique customs, but everyone recognizes animal cruelty. Heritage, entertainment, art and religion never justify outright torture.'"
I found Catolonia's Jose Rull's words very beautiful, enlightening, and compassionate. In my opinion, he is the Ferdinand the Bull of Spain in human form. I truly pray that his words will touch the hearts of the people who remain entrenched in continuing the brutalizing of innocent animals for "entertainment."