Bull-Headed Return

Spanish TV Resumes
Its Corrida Broadcasts

It didn’t last long. When bullfights stopped being televised in Spain, six years ago, it was the start of a movement that eventually led to a full ban of toradas in Catalonia, and a hard won victory for animal advocates. Many exaggeratedly called it a battle for the soul of Spain.
As aficionados of the bloody sport filled stadiums over the weekend, though, even that ban looked fragile at best. It may also help that the momentum inside the country is considerably darker, compared to 2006, when the broadcasts were halted.
To be perfectly fair, even before it, the popularity of bullfighting in Spain had already been waning, and demographics became a factor, as its enthusiasts are already in their greying years. The vibrant, culturally engaged Spanish youth has stayed away from the tradition.
The use of animals for public entertainment may be also on its way out throughout the world, specially when they may wind up killed, as they do in bullfighting. Despite a rich cultural and literary tradition in the past, resuming the toradas at this point may have to do more with local politics than with the march of time.

Talking about literature, for Americans the corrida de toros will always be identified with Ernest Hemingway, who wrote extensively about it and even called it not a sport, but a tragedy in a famous column about the one he attended in Pamplona, in the 1920s. Accordingly, he unsparingly used the fight between man and beast as a frequent metaphor in his work.
Despite his unequivocal position, though, Hemingway’ll be forever considered a supporter of the macho iconography of the torada, with its undeniable beauty of athleticism and grace, and its insufferable promise of drama and blood. We’re republishing here what we’ve written a year ago, when the ban went into effect in the Catalonia. Enjoy.


Joy to the Bulls

End of Toradas?

Struggle for Cultural Independence
Frames Catalonia Ban on Bullfighting

An old cultural Spanish tradition may have its days numbered as the parliament of Catalonia voted to ban the torada, the practice of killing bulls for public enjoyment. What is also known as corrida has been part of Spain’s national image for centuries and it’s celebrated as an art form. Nobel Prize Winner Hemingway was one such enthusiast and once wrote, “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor.”
Almost as old as bullfighting is Catalonia‘s struggle to reaffirm its separate cultural identity, and language, from Spain. The vote underlines the region’s claim to greater independence and may set the tone for a complete ban on the practice in the rest of the country. That’s also what animal rights activists, who see bullfighting as a remnant of the country’s medieval past with no redeeming qualities, are hoping it happens.
Fundación Equanimal‘s José Ramón Mallén says that “this (vote) is not about politics and Catalan identity, but about ethics and showing that it’s simply wrong to enjoy watching an animal getting killed in public.”
GOT BULL?Cloned Bull Got
It’s too bad, then, that in the eve of such historical rejection by Catalans of the way this formidable animal has been treated for centuries, scientists from Valencia, ironically also considered part of Catalonia, seem to be navigating the opposite direction.
No one knows why now, but the nonprofit Fundación Valenciana de Investigación Veterinaria just announced the birth of Got, the first cloned fighting bull. Although one could hardly say it by just looking at the dark brown calf born May 18, Got’s the only living representative of Pedraja, a ferocious lineage that goes back 300 years.
It was all done in the name of science, of course, the scientists have rushed to say, but the Guardiola family, who owns Got and 20 other still frozen embryos of the lineage, hasn’t said anything about not making a profit in the future by selling studs sired by the cloned bull.
Who did say something against it was, again, those pesky activists, this time, Eurogroup for Animals‘ Sonja Van Tichelen.
“The underlying motive is clearly profit, with no consideration for the pain and the deaths of many animals as a result of this Frankenstein technique.”
So it goes that when we finally right something that has been wrong for so long in one end, we usually find a way to screw it all up on the other side. But clones don’t normally last that long; Dolly the sheep got sick and had to be euthanized after only six years.
Let’s just hope bullfighting as we know it will be banned all over by then, so they’ll have no one to sell their expensive cloned animals to be killed for the delight of a dying breed of aficionados.
* Originally published in Sept. 2011

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