Bullfighting - drenched in symbolism, embedded in tradition - is as synonymous with Spanish culture as flamenco dancing and paella. It is a centuries-old blood sport to beat all blood sports with its ceremonial battle to the death between man and beast. An uneven playing field? Perhaps. Only recently, thousands of stunned fans, both in person and on television, witnessed as a bull gored then pinned to the ground matador Juan José Padilla, severely injuring his face, eye and head. This happened in Madrid just days after a final bullfight played out in Barcelona, capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, where the sport has recently been banned amid a swirl of controversy.
Reportedly, deputies in the local Catalonian parliament voted to ban bullfighting on the principle that it is nothing more than pure animal cruelty. Animal rights groups worldwide applaud the move and continue to urge other regions and other countries to follow suit. However, many, including British author, actor, and bullfighting aficionado Alexander Fiske-Harrison, believe the ban has more to do with political motives as Catalonia strives to continue to distance itself from Spain, a reaction following years of suppression under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Fiske-Harrison and others insist that bulls raised for the ring lead much better lives - free range grazing for five years - than their factory farm kin who are fattened for eighteen months in squalid pens before being unceremoniously butchered.
Obviously the issue is as complicated as the sport is colorful. Bullfighting attendance has dropped significantly in recent years - largely, many say, due to the economy as spectators can ill afford tickets. Additionally, as interest wanes, perhaps due as much to financial problems as to the popularity of animal rights ideology, breeders are losing revenue. This has triggered even more controversy that involves all of Europe as EU taxes have gone to subsidize Spain's bullfighting industry to the tune of almost £100 million (approximately $160 million) as of 2008. The controversy is not isolated to bullfighting in Spain, as the art (or sport) is also popular in southern France and Mexico as well as other Latin American countries.
Watch the video below to hear more about the final corrida in Catalonia.
Photo credit: MarcusObal
This article is from the November 3, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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