Far from the image of “bravery and aggressiveness” that the business of bullfighting wants to exhibit, bulls are herbivores and they exhibit a quiet and peaceful nature. When they are exposed to situations of fear or threat, their instinctive reaction is not to attack but to run away from the source of danger. In the bullfighting ring, the animals try to find a way out, and that is the reason why their first reaction when they enter the ring is to run around the place several times in search of a possible way out. But there is no such thing as an “exit” and they are forced to confront the terrible situation men have arranged for them. Thus, the attacks of the bulls are only their desperate efforts to defend their lives against the threat of a group of armed men.
Thousands of bulls and heifers are killed every year in this cruel show where the audience and the bullfighters take part in this blood shedding exaltation of torture and death of a sentient being.
The true nature of bulls:
The exploitation and manipulation of bulls used in bullfighting starts in the meadow where they are raised (in Spanish, the place is called “dehesa”). In this place the bulls are marked with a burning piece of iron and they are separated from their families at an early age.
When they are two years old and to test their bravery, the animals are forced to undergo the practice called “tienta”, a sort of ritual in which the animals will be teased by a group of men on horseback, armed with spears. They chase the animals around until the bulls fall to the ground exhausted. Weeks before the fateful day of their death in the ring, they are given laxatives to make them weak and a few days prior to the fight, they will not be given food. When the moment arrives, the bulls are taken out of the “dehesa” and they are transferred to the bullfighting ring in narrow boxes that prevent them to move around and make extremely stressed.
Before they are taken to the ring, they are kept for hours in darkness and they are not given water. Also, the animals are “shaved”, a term that refers to the process of cutting their horns. The bulls are hit several times with sandbags, their kidneys and testicles are pocked with sticks with the aim of making them weaker. Their eyes are covered with vaseline to make it harder for them to see and they cut their hooves, which are then covered with turpentine it gives them a feeling of irritation, they feel like the area is on fire. This way the animals keep moving trying to alleviate this feeling and as a result the fight is more active and glorious for the bullfighter. The torture doesn’t stop there, they also place cotton balls inside the nostrils of the animals so that their breathing becomes harder and they put newspaper balls inside their ears so that their balance and equilibrium is affected. When the moment arrives for them to enter the ring, they are stabbed with a small harpoon called “divisa” which has the emblem of the family that owns the bulls (called “ganadería”). The reason behind this is to make the animal feel a sudden and intense pain making his entrance into the ring into a dramatic scene – suggesting the bull is fierce and willing to fight.
Weakened by all these tortures prior to the fight, the bulls are forced to come out of the “toriles” (gate) into the ring, where there will be torment and die and agonizing death. All the suffering will be inflicted by a group of humans that for the next 15 minutes. These poor defenseless creatures will go through endless savage rituals of torture while the audience goes crazy with excitement and joy supporting the bullfighters.
During the first third of the fight, called in Spanish “suerte de varas “ (which means combat with spears) the bullfighter is a man on horseback called “picador”. He stabs the bulls with a special type of spear made of wood and metal that goes deep into the body of the bull (as deep as 40 cm). By moving around this weapon it leads to severe tearing of the flesh and tissue of the animal, causing an intense bleeding and the most horrific pain. The rules of bullfighting say that the bull must suffer this initial torture at least twice.
It is also important to mention the horses ridden by these bullfighters because in many occasions they are also victims of this industry. The horses used in bullfighting are older or have no commercial value, as these animals will die after taking part in two or three fights. This is common because they are usually severely injured, may have broken bones and other wounds resulting from being injured by the horns of the bulls. In order to prevent them to be seized by horror when facing the bulls and to prevent them to run away, the horses are sedated and their eyes are covered so they do not see anything. It is also part of the routine prior to the fights to have vocal cords surgery so their cries of pain and fear are not heard and do not bother the audience. The horses are also covered with a piece of cloth around their bodies in an attempt “to protect them” however this cloth does not protect. In reality it is used to hide the injuries suffered by the horses which in many occasions it means their gut and internal organs coming out of their body.
During the second third of the fight, the torment continues, the “banderillas” (which are some sort of mix between arrows and harpoons) are stabbed into the flesh of the bulls. These are placed in the same spots where the picador first stabbed them. The sharp edge of these banderillas cuts through and tears off the flesh of the animal and with each movement he makes, he undoubtedly suffers the most horrible pain. As his body continues to be under attack even when the bullfighter uses a “muleta” (a piece of cloth) to call the bull’s attention, he continues to suffer agonizing pain.
When the bulls have been able to avoid the spears by moving quickly, bullfighters use some special kind of “banderillas” which are called punishment harpoons or “banderillas de castigo”, which have a larger harpoon (8 cm). These banderillas produce more tearing and damage in the flesh of the animals, cutting through flesh, organs, tissues – there is no limit to the number of attacks the bulls will suffer with these items.
During the last third of the fight, called supreme death (or “Muerte Suprema” in Spanish) the bull will be punctured with a sword called Estoque, which is 80 cm long. This will tear into their bodies destroying everything in its path: liver, lungs, diaphragm, pleura and many other internal organs depending on the way the sword enters the body. In many cases these killers (or matadores in Spanish) fail and this torture is repeated over and over again. It is not unusual to find that the animal has been stabbed with a sword about ten times in a row. When the sword eventually reaches some major artery, it is possible to see that the animal suffers heavy bleeding through his nose and mouth and he will soon start vomiting blood abundantly. In agony, the bulls try to find for a way out (through their blurry vision), they look for the meadow where they were taken from. They cry out loud in agony and they will likely see their killer until they drown in their own blood (blood floods their lungs which in the end are perforated and deflated).
These animals show extraordinary resistance and a very strong survival instinct and these qualities, in many cases, extend their agony for longer, making them endure many injuries inflicted by the swords. Their torturers use a “puntilla” (a sort of knife) to try to kill the bulls by cutting their spine in the area between the atlas and axis vertebrae. With this new injury the bulls lose control of their bodies from their necks to their tails and they fall to the ground. To the spectators it seems like the bulls are dead however they are still conscious and alive, so they are aware when their tails and ears are severed and given to their killers as a trophy.
The orgy of blood reaches its end and what is left a courageous and noble animal is dragged to the backstage area where their bodies are cut into pieces to be sold for human consumption.
The mob goes crazy with excitement – they want bloodshed and death. The bull enters the ring without knowing what is to become of him.
The exaltation of torture, the celebration of barbarity, trumpets and bugles announce a most horrid death. The killer walks around, euphoric and proud with no shame for the pain inflicted, the animal lies down humiliated and injured, tormented until his last breath.
There is no art in this, no fiesta, no bravery, but just a brutish apology for violence and pain.
By Animanaturalis: The truth behind bullfighting.
(Text on image Anatomy of suffering)
Estoque (sword): the usual thing is that this sword pierces inside the rib cage, damaging the organs inside it: heart (1), lungs (2) and main arteries, veins. Depending on how it enters and the direction it takes, it could go into the abdomen, affecting thus the stomach (3) liver, pancreas, spleen.
Banderillas (harpoons): muscles (4) and skin.
Puya, pica o vara (spears): This damage the skin and muscle tissue of the back, but it can also damage the spine.
Descabello (knife): it damages the spine and the bones of the head as well as the first (atlas) and second (axis) vertebrae. This cuts the nervous impulse and stops many body functions and movements.
Links of interest:
Cutting off ears and tails while the animal is still alive and conscious:
Torture and death in the ring:
The reality behind bullfighting: