Bullfighting in Spain – Should it Be Banned?

by DIWYY · 3 comments


Olé. Three simple letters that when pronounced together form one of the most uttered words in Spain.  In any tourist shop, you are likely to come across mugs, t-shirts, pens, and postcards depicting an elegantly dressed man waving some sort of a cape around his body, with Olé emblazoned above his head.  No, this is not some sort of a fashion statement (although these men do take pride in their outfits), but a traditional Spanish spectacle known as La Corrida de Toros, or ‘Bullfight’ in English.

The very mention of a bullfight can often incite an intense debate, especially among non- Spaniards who argue that the sport is cruel and out of date.  This is often countered by the notion that bullfighting is a beautiful, highly regarded tradition in Spanish culture, and represents an important part of Spanish history and culture.

New Bans on Bullfighting in 2012

Starting in 2012, regions like Catalonia are banning this tradition. It will be very interesting to see if other regions of Spain follow.

What about you? Do you agree with the side stating bullfighting is a cruel spectacle that should be retired? Or are you on the side believing that regardless of the treatment of the animal, that the historical significance means this tradition should be preserved? Add your voice in the comments section.

bullfight spainAs a foreigner in Spain, I am in no position to pass judgment on this issue, rather, I am there to experience everything they have to offer – and believe me, they offer a great deal.

Experiencing a Bullfight

My first visit to a bullfight was something I’ll never forget, and I have frequented many more throughout my lifetime.  There is something breathtaking about sitting in the stands, with the sun beating down upon you (unless you pay for the more expensive ‘Sombra’ section in the shade), waiting for the bull to charge out into the ring.  If you ever have the chance to visit Spain, I’d highly recommend you visit Ronda, somewhat of a ‘mecca’ of bullfighting.

There, you can visit their museum and actually walk out into the bull ring itself.  Walking over that golden sand, I saw deep scratches in the wood along the side of the ring, evidence of many years of bullfighting and struggles between man and beast.  Ernest Hemingway was right; this really was death in the afternoon.  Bullfighting has been defined as many things over the years, from a sport to a tragedy, but I think Francisco Rivera Ordóñez summed it up nicely: “Being a matador de toros is much more difficult than I had imagined it would be, but also much more beautiful.”

There are three main parts to a bullfight, each one more nail biting than the next:  Tercio de Varas, Tercio de Banderillas, and the final stage, Tercio de Muerte.  Banderillas are barbed sticks adorned with colorful paper streamers carried by men aptly named los banderilleros.  This stage is like watching a Spanish ballet – the banderilleros are light on their feet, nimble and dressed in outfits that would put Lady Gaga to shame!

It’s a curious experience to watch a bullfight, and while I am no advocate of cruel punishment or death, you begin to see the encounter as a struggle between man and beast.  You see how fleeting survival can be; one wrong step or fumble can result in the matador being tossed in the air and suspended on the sharp horn of the bull.  Everyone hopes for a clean kill, and if the matador gave a good fight, he is rewarded with the bull’s ear (both ears if it was excellent).

bullfightingAlthough you may not believe it, the Bullfight is an elegant affair, full of well heeled Spaniards, spending their afternoons soaking up the sun and their culture.  The men, sporting wide brimmed straw hats, smoke cigars and chat loudly with their friends.  The extremely elegant women cool themselves with their fans and at first glance appear far too ladylike for such a spectacle, until they start shouting Olé with the rest of the audience.

Don’t Forget to Pack a Picnic

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing (the one and only!) Francisco Rivera Ordóñez, Jesulin de Ubrique and Salvador Vega at a bullfight in Algericas, a town in the south of Spain, not far from Gibraltar.  It was the height of summer, and we splurged a bit to  secure the ‘Sol y Sombra’ seats, which started off quite warm, but soon became shady as the afternoon progressed.  As we found our seats, it seemed as if everyone but us had received the unofficial memo to bring along a picnic – and not your ordinary picnic at that.  Out came huge slices of tortilla Española, packages of jamón Serrano and Spanish cheeses, olives, bread, and even jugs of sangria!  We were speechless and secretly jealous!

As the music began, the lady to my right turned to me and offered me a slice of tortilla and some jamón Serrano, insisting that I share whatever food she brought with her.  Perhaps she could sense my ever increasing hunger, but her offer was genuine and I never felt more at home in Spain than I did that day.

I don’t remember much about the fights, or how many ears were awarded, but the kindness of that Spanish lady (and her delicious food) is something I will cherish forever.

Just remember next time, when you are in Spain or anywhere for that matter, that as a visitor to a country, we are not qualified to judge a tradition or a culture, but rather we are there to take part and understand it, whether we agree with it or not.  ‘That, I believe, is what traveling is all about.

And who knows, perhaps you’ll be asked to join an impromptu picnic.

What are your thoughts on bullfighting?

We wanted to highlight this piece because it presents a fair perspective on the experience of a bullfight without offering a strong opinion on one side or the other about whether this tradition should be allowed to continue. As we pointed out in the beginning of the article, bullfighting does appear to be facing the final blow, as regions start to implement bans in 2012.

What are your thoughts on bullfighting? Should this tradition be allowed to go on? Add your voice to the comments section below.

Written by DIWYY guest writer, Rachel Laing. We republished this post from 2010, hoping that with the new ban in Catalonia on bullfighting, this would spark discussion.

Photo courtesy of Mait Juriado & goodaboom.

Mariana Salles 1

Bullfighting certainly is cruel, and the spectacle of people cheering an animal’s killing can’t be healthy.This business moves millions of bloody money like unfortunately other ways to make $, cockfighting, diamonds, gold, wood, palm oil and meat industry, slavery in prostitution, etc…
Bullfighting is called a sport, or sometimes even an art. It is neither. It is animal cruelty disguised as entertainment. Ever wonder why the bull never wins? Spectators are led to believe the matadors are actually risking their lives. In reality, the bull has already been crippled and subdued in several ways and doesn’t stand a chance against its opponents.
God bless all those people who were standing and fighting against this barbarian act as all the governments that forbide bullfighting…that shows the new generation in this beautiful world:)



Thanks so much for your comment. I wasn’t aware that the bull was subdued from the beginning – thanks for bringing that to light.


Thanks Udit for your comment. The way the questions you highlight were written, I can understand the bias claim you make.

I would wholeheartedly disagree with your last statement. We never take our reader community for granted.

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