I’m Not Sad To See Bullfighting Go In Spain
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Allow me to first clarify that I am not a radical animal rights activist. The idea of chucking red paint on a fur coat is not only unappealing and a destruction of personal property but, heck, plain old impolite. Hyper-radical political movements, while they sometimes achieve change, usually result in repulsion rather than legislation.
Take PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for example. This group, while its intentions are fundamentally admirable, has been known to make their poor interns strip down to beige underwear, crawl into human-sized Styrofoam flank steak packages, and cover themselves in red paint — a sensational (not sensational as in awesome, sensational as in, oh this nasty image is appealing to my sense of the gag reflex) commentary on animal cruelty and the mass meat market. Spanish animal rights activists used these extreme types of tactics to combat bullfighting in Catalonia, culminating in last year’s vote by the Catalonian government to ban bullfighting after 2012.
Speaking as an American, bullfighting is an activity that we intrinsically associate with Spain. Our third grade history textbook had huge color photographs of the glorified matador, and our elementary school Multicultural Day infallibly had at least one of the traditional red-garbed figures singing along onstage next to the horribly stereotypical Native American and Japanese Geisha. Indeed, viewed from afar, the act of bullfighting is sewn deeply into Spanish culture.
But in modern times, is bullfighting really a hallmark of Catalonian identity, or has it been hanging onto the rapidly fraying thread of tourist amusement and patronage?
The Financial Times recently took a look at the modern day bullfighting scene with a sad and deflated voice. When describing the matador after the fight, they noted, “For a moment he is a Joselito; a god. Then they reach their van — no more than an aging blue minibus. The god is put down and the matadors climb inside, cramped on its fake leather seats; the door slams shut and the battered bus drives away.” It is apparent that the ritual and beauty described by Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon is lost. The glory and ornamentation dissipates as soon as the stadium is exited.
Personally, I support the end of bullfighting. I suspect the sport (or is it art?) has lost a great deal of the connection it historically had to Spanish culture — a superlative of the country that once had great relevance. And being a vegetarian, I simply cannot prevent myself from bringing up the argument that there is hypocrisy when it comes to banning the animal violence that we can see, while supporting, encouraging and patronizing the death that goes on behind closed doors. Thousands of bulls are killed daily in much harsher environments (factory farms anyone?). But that is a discussion for another time.
So what would the great author say to this eradication of what he perceived to be the greatest of artistic spectacles? Who knows? But maybe Hemingway was on to something when he wrote in Death in the Afternoon, “About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
[Bullfighting by JuanJ/Flickr]
About the Author
Jenna Blumenfeld, (Jenna Ogden Blumenfeld when she’s in really big trouble) hails from the wee state of Connecticut. Although her childhood dream of becoming a bug doctor — with a specialization in ladybugs — has gone unfulfilled, she is content writing about travel, cuisine and culture. A vegetarian, she currently resides in the food hub of Boulder, Colorado. Read more of her food-centric writing at NewHope360.com.