Dying for Culture: Bullfighting in Spain

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Bull killed by bullfighters in spain

Have you ever visited a place expecting no more than your average tourist interaction but came away with something much more profound?

It happened when I visited The Gambia and it happened once again when I went to Ronda, Spain.

I went to this small Spanish mountain town to see Tajo Gorge. And I expected this post to be a neat summary, complete with eye-candy of the long-legged bridge that straddles the gorge. And I won’t disappoint – details about visiting Ronda are below. But after days of struggling with this write-up, I realise I can’t overlook my more significant experience in Ronda that started as a low-rumbling of discomfort before growing into a more significant stare at Spanish culture and then, closer to home – my own behaviour when I travel.

It began with Bullfighting in Spain

Tajo Gorge in Ronda Spain
Stunning Tajo Gorge – the reason I went to Ronda.

To most tourists (myself included), Ronda is all about the bridge. It was the sole purpose of my decision to travel from Malaga for a two night stay in the town.

My journey was, as ever, pre-cursored with sweating and stress as I almost failed to catch the mid-day bus (for information: physically man-handling the bus driver and getting him to escort you to the correct bus company ticket booth can make the difference between catching the last daytime bus from Malaga or not).

On arrival in Ronda, I continued my efforts to synchronise with the Spanish way of life by taking a small siesta. When I woke, I roused myself with merienda (an afternoon snack usual involving coffee or hot chocolate and a sweet treat) before heading out to explore the town – I wanted to see the gorge just before sunset.

However, as I made my way from my hotel into the old town, the first sight of significance I came across wasn’t the bridge, it was the bullring. The Andalucian-white, beautifully constructed, pleasing on the eye, bullring. So, I lingered to take some shots, trying in earnest to practice the tips I’d learned a few weeks ago when I was at photo school, but the chilling effects of the altitude took their toll on my un-gloved hands and I eventually stepped inside the small tienda (bullring souvenir shop) in search of heat. And that’s when the significance of bullfighting hit me.

History of Bullfighting in Spain

Bull Fighter in Ronda outside the bullfighting ring
Bullring in Ronda

To date one of my most embarrassing confessions, in terms of disclosing the tiny size of my brain, is that I thought that the book The Life of Pi by Yann Martell was based on a true story. When you’ve finished laughing…I confess I had an equally embarrassing realisation when I arrived in Ronda – I didn’t know bullfighting was still a sport in Spain. Sure, the association between bullfighting and country was strong in my mind but I thought it was an historic one that had been outlawed for the clear sake of cruelty, long before the Brits got the fox-hunting ban onto the statue books. How wrong I was, and what part of Spain better placed to put me right than Ronda.

If there is any town that can claim to be the home of bullfighting in Spain, then it’s Ronda. Skim-reading between intermittent dozing on the bus from Malaga (hey, I nap a lot when I travel), I knew that Ronda had one of the largest, most significant and oldest bullrings in the country. Silly me, I thought it was a building that had been preserved for posterity, the efforts just that bit more sophisticated than what the Italian’s had done with the Colosseum.

Bullring panorama in Malaga

To compound the extent of my ignorance, I’d already had the pleasure of a birdseye view of a similarly significant bullring when I arrived in Malaga. Again, I thought it was a building that had developed a second life – an arena for concerts seemed like a sensible progression; a place where brutality had once lived but was now preserved as a solemn reminder that we, in our age of enlightenment, didn’t live in those times any more…except in Spain, we absolutely do.

My revelation in Ronda sent me to the nearest café where I hit the internet. I needed to find out more, except part of me wishes I could go back to my initial ignorance; ignorance where I don’t keep seeing the visual of a beat-up bull with a sword in his head flashing through my mind.

Some bullfighting facts

Blood of the bull sangre de torro wine in spain

An animal-cruelty-free way to spill “blood of a bull”

Here’s a small list of the facts that struck me most strongly during my short stint of research before I had to close my laptop in anger and sadness:

  • Bulls are not aggressive animals despite the presentation that the matador is taking on a ferocious beast.
  • Bulls appear angry in the ring because they are subjected to days of abuse before the “fight”. This includes drugging and blinding the bull by putting vaseline in his eyes as well as blocking his respiration with tissue. Laxatives can be fed to him and needles inserted into his most manly parts, all designed to weaken and anger the bull before his fated performance.
  • It’s this chronic abuse that is the reason the bull charges into the ring. After days of brutality he is running for freedom. Ironically, the cruelty is just about to begin.
  • The bull suffers through three “acts” during the “fight”. It starts with the bull being stabbed and gouged in the neck whereby he slowly starts to bleed to death. Next he is stabbed with barbed instruments before, ultimately, being killed by the matador. This last act can take 2 or 3 slow and painful attempts before the bull is granted release from his suffering.
  • It’s estimated 250,000 bulls die each year around the world in bullfights and around 30,000 in Spain (CAS International).
  • Meanwhile, bullfighting in Spain is thought to generate over €1 billion in revenue each year.
  • The most common defence of bullfighting, horrifyingly, is…culture. Yet, in a recent poll, only a small percentage of Spaniards supported bullfighting
  • Spain is not the only culprit – Portugal and France are also guilty in Europe while several places in Latin America also allow fights to go on – unsurprisingly, these are countries that were colonised by Spain.
  • Texas is the only US state where bull fighting is legal.
  • The Spanish Canary Islands outlawed bullfighting in 1991 and the “sport” became illegal in Catalonia in 2012.
  • There are over 40 bullfighting schools in Spain where children are taught cruelty towards animals from as young as 9 years old.
  • There are over 1,200 state-funded bull ranches in Spain.
  • Between 2007 and 2012 bullfighting was banned from state TV in Spain because it was too brutal for children to see (though apparently not to train in the ‘art’). In 2012, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lifted the TV ban.

I wanted to include a video of some bullfighting but after looking at pictures, I couldn’t bring myself to look at any moving images of the brutality. I also debated arranging a visit and interview at one of the bullrings, but again couldn’t bring myself to get any closer to this business and listen to the baseless defence of killing for culture.

It’s an animal rights infringement that is promoted from the top: “The day the EU bans bullfighting is the day Spain leaves the EU,” King of Spain Juan Carlos.

From bullfighting to bull’s tail

Rabbo de Torro dish in spain (bull's tail)
I still wince when I look at this picture – bull’s tail

I was shocked and physically saddened by the facts I discovered when I did my research. They were feelings that grew over the next few days as I moped around Ronda in the rain. The Tajo Gorge was undeniably beautiful but it was no longer the image that was most prominent in my thoughts.

Which was far from ideal given the dinner plans I had when I was in Ronda. Prone to experimenting with food when I travel, I wanted to try the local specialty while I was in the town – Rabo de Toro or bull’s tail. I’d been fed ox-tail soup as a child and I used to enjoy the flavour (I’m sure it’s where my love of strong flavours for items like marmite stemmed from). The soup I ate as a child was the rehydratable kind but it seemed like a natural progression to try bull’s tail in Spain.

restaurant with bull's head on the wall
Being watched by the animal I was eating was too intense.

Except, as I sat down for my three course set menu at Pedro Romero, one of the most famous restaurants in Ronda for Rabo de Toro, regret for my choice was already circling. As I stared around at the bullfighting paraphernalia that adorned every square centimetre of the walls, I couldn’t get the day’s revelations out of my head. And my static dining companion did not help – staring at me out of the corner of his eye, perched on high, nailed to the wall and confirmed to me as genuine by the waiter, was a relative of my night’s main course.

I rarely have a poor interaction with a meat dish but on this rainy Ronda night, with my newly-acquainted bull-friend (or rather the carcus of him) looking down at me, I simply couldn’t bring myself to enjoy my food. Bite after bite, I flung the flabby flesh around in my mouth keen for only one thing – it to be over. I hadn’t wanted my meal to be finished that fast since I’d diced with death eating fugu in Japan. After whittling the dish down to a pile of bones (another new fact for me – that the bull’s tail had a bone), I hastily paid and left.

Sadly, it wasn’t the only time I paid for my meal. I don’t know if it’s possible for your stomach to have an emotional or moral reaction to food, but on this occasion, my insides went into near instant battle with the bull I’d consumed. I’m sure no more detail is needed but for the next 24 hours I was in sub-prime stomach condition, and I couldn’t help thinking it was nothing to do with the quality or cooking of the food. I was convinced my conscience had rejected what I’d fed it.

Killing for sport: Trophy hunts in Africa or bullfighting in Spain

Let’s return to bull fighting for a moment. It seems beyond comprehension to me that in 2014, when we are so well developed, particularly in places like Europe and North America, that we still kill animals for sport.

There has been a lot of publicity and anger on the internet recently about men and women in developed nations heading off to Africa to hunt and kill animals. Those acts have angered me as they have so many others. But the (small) upside to those examples of brutality is that they are not the norm. They are not ingrained in our culture. So, by comparison doesn’t that make bullfighting worse?

I will say right now that I’m not an expert on either bullfighting or African trophy hunts but in both cases I can see no benefit except for the sickening pleasure of those involved (I’ve heard arguments that the African hunts help control animal numbers, but I’m not convinced. I’ve heard no equivalent arguments for bullfighting).

I know that similar sports exist around the world – a bunch of people from my hostel took themselves off to see a cock-fight in Manilla – for the experience. I grimaced at their naivety, yet wasn’t brave enough to speak out. And, no doubt worse, I confess I patronisingly dismissed the practice as one from a nation that was too underdeveloped to know differently.

The spectrum of animal rights and responsibilities as a tourist

Lion sleeping in Africa
Lion cub trying to take a rest in the mid-day African heat

With this chain of thoughts progressing and as I lay there suffering the side effects of my Rabo de Toro, it didn’t take long before I started to think about my own behaviour towards animals at home and abroad.

In my mind, there is no doubt that bullfighting is a brutal, cruel, exploitative sport that has no place in the modern world where we surely should know better. The same goes for Africa trophy hunts, cock-fighting and the whole raft of illegal fights that are organised outside of the spotlight of the media (dog fighting in the UK comes to mind).

But how does this view sit with my own activities? With the exception of vegans who live the most puritan of lives in relation to our animal friends, the subject of animal cruelty, is, for most of us, not a simple subject nor one that has a binary right or wrong. For the majority, it exists on a sliding scale where the likes of bullfighting reside at one end and drinking milk at the other.

Without sounding like a new-age hippie, the more I travel and interact with nature and the world, the more enlightened I feel as to what is a good way and a bad way to interact with the land and our fellow species. And this ever increasing understanding is causing me conflict…because, I know where I should sit on that spectrum (living a life without contributing to or encouraging animal cruelty), but that is sometimes at odds with my reality.

A confession (or two) and a promise

hot dog, fries and smiley face ketchup
Hot dog and smiley face ketchup

I eat meat. But I don’t just eat meat, I love eating meat! So much so that when I can’t have it (my entire time in India), I craved it – actually in my dreams and sub-conscious as well as during my waking hours. Worse, I started to watch a documentary about the reality of mass animal faming in the USA (no doubt similar activities prevail in the UK), and I had to switch it off because it was too upsetting and, being hyper-honest, I was more comfortable with my denial of how animals are treated before they make it to my plate than with having to face the truth.

I’ve been fishing, several times. I’ve baited hooks and expressed excitement when I feel the tug of a catch. I’ve watched the fisherman gut and fillet my prize and turn it into lunch without a qualm (though, hypocritically, I was too squeamish and “animal loving” to do the killing myself).

I own leather handbags and have bought make-up without any idea as to how it was tested.

I’ve also done things in my travelling past I’m now uncomfortable with – I’m a huge animal lover and because of this I’ve always taken any opportunity to be close to them. While I may have been one of the few people to pat the mangy street dogs in South America, the irony of this so-called love for animals is that I’ve visited zoos and aquariums. I was delighted to be able to see an array of animals despite them being in cages and miniature swatches of swimming space, detained for my pleasure. I visited Tiger Kingdom in Thailand to be able to stroke a tiger. I wanted to get close to one so bad that I convinced my lazy conscience that the tigers were not drugged and their welfare (in a cage) was fine. Just last year, I went on a walk with lion cubs, again putting my desire to be close to the animals ahead of the fact that the cubs were being forced to walk through the mid-day African heat and climb into trees for photo opportunities. In fairness, I didn’t know they would be strongly encouraged to perform. Yet, in honesty that was down to my lack of research.

That walk in Africa was another significant point of realisation. I backed away from the group and made myself a promise to take more care of my furry friends and not encourage or support such tourist activities.

Yet it still doesn’t seem enough. I want to be better and while I simply could not and would not go to a bullfight, I’m struggling with the concept of animal cruelty because I contribute to it – if only by eating mass-farmed meat, not checking too closely the provenence of my eggs or interacting with animals without really researching the reality of their care and custody.

A large part of me wishes I would end this post with a pledge to go vegan and dedicate the rest of my life to promoting animal rights. I’m not there…yet, and, in honesty, I doubt I’ll ever reach that stage. If for no reason than I enjoy eating meat too much. But I promise this – to continue my efforts to be better in whatever ways I can.

Ok, that sounds rather nebulous, so let me try and define what I mean a bit better:

  • I’m going to restrict my ‘animal viewing’ to instances where the animals are in their natural habitat. Taking a ride with the Pacific Whale Foundation in Hawaii allowed me to see dolphins and whales playing together in their natural home, outside of captivity and free of threat.
  • Zoos and aquariums are off the visit list. Actually, I purposely haven’t visited a zoo in years – aquariums I’ve avoided when they have dolphins and turtles but now I’m going for an all-out personal ban.
  • I’m not going to promise to turn vegetarian but I will promise to think twice before every meal choice and consider where my meat and fish has come from. I’ve taken a few vegetarian meal options in the past week when the alternative was cheap and most likely poorly farmed meat. Not only did I not die from just eating vegetables, I’m sure this approach will help me eat better quality meat and fish products.
  • I will continue to shout in the street (until the police start to move in) at the people who shackle monkeys and birds to their arms in hope of trading money for a tourist photograph.
  • I’m going to do more research about animal welfare around the world and do a bit more to help protect our animal friends. I’m not sure what this looks like yet, so any suggestions welcome.

It’s not the longest list nor is it the most impressive. It’s also not a promise to be perfect. But it is a promise to be better.

Some might think that the natural corollary of my new found “wisdom” is a lesson in tolerance. Given my less than perfect past (and present) I should judge others less. After all, vegan’s afford me the favour of not criticising me for my meat eating and milkshake glugging (at least not to my face). So, should it follow that I’m less accusatory of people who attend dolphin shows, bullfights or kill elephants in Africa? It’s an argument. But it’s not one I accept. Those activities are too far on the moral spectrum even for even a meat eater to tolerate.

For more information and to find out what you can do to help, see: Stop Bullfighting, IWAB and PETA.

Useful information about visiting Ronda

And on a lighter note…

Ronda Old Town
Ronda Old Town

What to see in Ronda

As well as Tajo Gorge, there are a handful of other sights but none that rival the bridge and a wander through the old town. If you’re on a short timescale, one or two nights in Ronda would be sufficient. Beware if you’re visiting in winter – most of the sights are outside so the cold and wet mountain weather can have an impact on your stay. Pack good footwear because the streets of Spain are dangerously slippy when they get wet.

Getting to Ronda from Malaga

The best way to get from Malaga to Ronda on public transport is by bus with the company Los Amarillos. The bus schedule is somewhat sparse with hours passing between buses, so plan your day around it. Buses leave from the bus station on Paseo de Los Tilos near the Malaga Maria Zambrano train station. Don’t make the mistake I did: if you took the train from the airport to Malaga, you will have arrived at the Malaga Centro Train station close to the old town. The bus station for Ronda is nearby a different train station that is much further out of town. Walking from the historic centre takes around 30 minutes. If you have heavy luggage, I’d suggest a taxi. Equally, like many bus stations, it wasn’t located in the most attractive part of town so I’d also recommend a taxi for any journeys after dark. The bus trip takes 1 hour 45 minutes and is worth staying awake for – the scenery is beautiful.

Where to stay in Ronda

Ronda Paradore arches
Ronda Paradore Arches

There isn’t any hostel accommodation in Ronda but there are a lot of budget hotels. I stayed at Hotel Sevilla. It wasn’t the cheapest budget option but for a few euros more, it was an excellent way to get a four-star stay on a budget (using Trivago I got a deal at £33 per night and stayed two nights). The hotel wasn’t in the old town but was walkable within 5 minutes. If you’re really after luxury, the Paradore in Ronda looked imposing and luxurious but at more than €120 per night is not a budget option.

The Ronda to Algecerias Railway

Ronda Railway Station seen through tree branches
Ronda Railway Station

As well as seeing the Tajo Gorge, I was excited by the idea of leaving Ronda by railway. The journey had been described to me as possibly the most scenic rail route in Spain and it was, winding through the mountains, forest, past rocky gorges, olive groves and large swathes of countryside dotted with typical Andalucian white towns in the distance.

Of historical interest, the railways was a private project built by some rich Brits who wanted a rail connection with Gibraltar.

Although the train schedule is thin (e.g. I took the 9.18 a.m. train – the next one after that was in the afternoon), the journey lived up to it’s promise. For only €10 I got a 1 hour 45 journey of beauty – money well spent.

Have you ever had your conscience find you while you travel? Do you think bullfighting is a cruel sport or do you defend it? Any suggestions for how I can be a better tourists when it comes to my interactions with animals? Let me know your views in the comments below.

Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Avatar for Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

44 thoughts on “Dying for Culture: Bullfighting in Spain”

  1. You don´t realize one thing: all bovines need to die. Not that I want it that way, to prevent some misunderstandings. I just say it how it is. Cows get butchered after they gave all the milk and gave bith to the calves. Normal bulls get slaughtered after 3-4 years of life. Fighting bulls live a year or two longer, they are between 4-6 years of age when they get to the bullring. Now the most important thing: is bullfighting a needless cruelty? Yes. Is the slaughterhouse more humane to the bovines? Hell no, it is much worse. Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse? Cows get butchered without being stunned, or get killed in front of their fuzzy friends, one after another. Some get lifted by their feet and thrown into grinding machines alive. It is terrible, inhumane, extremely grim. The cows all know why they are there. They cry, moo, but can´t escape because they are all crammed in one place. If normal people saw what happens in slaughterhouses, they´d be pretty disturbed. Most likely for the rest of their lives. I am sure some couldn´t live with the images popping inside their head and would even kill themselves. Not joking here. It is THAT bad. Now compare it to the typical corrida. It has three stages. The bull first gets SERIOUSLY hurt towards the end of the second stage. Each stage lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. In the end, the Matador de Toros (aka “The Killer Of Bulls”, yes, that´s the correct name) has to slay the animal with just ONE blow between its shoulders. The bull is supposed to die instantly and not suffer. This happens in at least 95 percent of cases. And that´s it. The dead animal is then dragged away by a quadrilla, all the blood is washed away, and after the doors at the exit close, another gate opens, and the next bull is set to the ring. The bulls never get to see what happened to their friends. Now tell me, what is more inhuman, the socially accepted slaughterhouse, or the generally condemned corrida? I think it´s pretty easy. That makes the bullfighting pretty acceptable for me. Remember that those cows are meant to be slayed anyway. I think that it is better for them to have the last run and gore some matador before they die than to be thrown into a grinding machine alive.

    • Martina, I agree with your points about slaughterhouses. However, I don’t agree with any argument that operates on the basis that because one cruel method (slaugtering) is in existence, it justifies the existence of another (bullfighting). Using this line of argument, it would be okay to commit murder in places where capital punishment exists.

  2. Jo, u written a wonderful and very detailed story about the cruelty that has happened. Dont bother about the people who commented about other countries cruelty, and comparing this with other livestocks. To me, all livestocks are life created by God, and we should defend for these voiceless animals.

    By writing this article doesnt mean that you only ban bull fighting, but the ignorance i saw other people commenting are so dumb, plain ridiculous! Writing an article and getting bombed down by stupid comments comparing various livestock is so sad to see. To me, just do what is right and dont bother about the negative comments.

    Support you Jo !


    • Hi Billy, thanks for your kind words. It’s a controversial topic and one that is bound to get people voicing their opinions on both sides. As always, I’m happy to publish positive as well as the negative and critical comments. However, it’s nice to read when someone agrees with you. So, thanks for that and for your support!

  3. The British as usual teaching morality to others when they carried out the worst massacres and holocausts In the world by killing entire nations in Australia and north America and slaving hundreds of thousands of black people around the word.
    Why don’t you speak about that too? All the racism and slavery that you have created in the world and has made miserable so many people yet you have the arrogance to judge other countries.
    The bull suffers but all the meat is consumed and they have a pleasant life living in huge fields unlike the calves whose meat you eat that live crammed and have a miserable existence. They suffer more and have much worse life yet you don’t mind going to tesco or asda after your meat with your benefits paycheck

    • I’m sorry that you feel the need to bend into stereotypes to make your point which is…what…that the end (the consumed meat) justifies the means (the torture)? And in any case, it’s ok, because farmed animals suffer too? If that’s your point, we disagree. If you read my blog, you’ll see I have written about slavery and the atrocities of the British. Of course, these acts were carried out by people of history and I cannot be held accountable for them any more than you can for what the Spaniards did in your history. I understand you feel passionately about this subject and I’m happy to debate it, but if you stop by this blog again, please leave your anger and insults at the door.

  4. What an amazing article! One of the best and smartest I’ve seen from any travel blogger in a long time. Not only great advice on what to do in an area, but bring ethical questions to mind! I’ve shared this with a number of groups I’m involved with & hope they support you!

    • Thanks Nathan, that’s so nice to hear! I’ve actually just re-read the post which is over a year old now and I’m proud to say that my trip to Ronda had a pretty long-lasting effect on me. I’ve not seen any animals outside the wild and I recently (politely) refused to participate in a falconry lesson during a work trip. I’ve also taken a lot more responsibility about buying better farmed meat and fish and encouraging (guilting) my family to do the same. I recently returned to Spain (Madrid) for a month where I rented an apartment. For a lot of the time I didn’t know whether the chicken or fish on sale was well reared so I ate vegetarian about 70% of the time. I’m still no angel but I’m closer than I was a year ago!

  5. This is a disgusting, vile, abhorrent, and barbaric spectacle.

    Who on earth would derive pleasure from watching a terrified animal tortured to death? The whole culture argument rings quite hollow with me. As listed above, there are many indefensible such activities around the world.

    Maybe it’s none of my business what Spain does or does not do, but I surely can speak with my money. Because we have been to Spain twice in the recent past and had another trip planned for next month (July 2014). This was to be a trip to Andalucia to look for a second home. But after doing more research I discovered the Spanish government subsidizes the “sport.” So really there’s no way I couldn’t participate in financing bullfighting. We canceled the trip and are seeking other locations for this home.

    That’s how anything gets changed – stop the money flow. If more tourists do not patronize bullfights, where the vast majority of the tourists leave sickened and disturbed after the first mutilation, and especially if they boycott the country altogether, bullfighting will become a thing of the past.

    • Tom, what more can I say than good for you! Voting with your voice is one thing but voting with your money is quite another and the much more powerful way to go! It’s interesting, when I travelled through Spain and spoke to other visitors who were thinking of going to/had been to a bull fight or even were just going to pay to see the ring, I explained what I’d discovered about the cruelty and how they were paying to support the “sport”. The vast majority of people changed their plans after I spoke to them and the others at least said they would think more closely before deciding.

  6. Animal focused sport created for human entertainment and most often, financial gain are still in existent today. Even though it’s a bloody and violent spectacle it has still become an iconic tradition in Spain and in other places. Till now, it remains a curious attraction for me. But the ongoing disputes between moral activists makes this sport on crisis today.

  7. The experience must be overwhelming and exciting in many ways (kind of reminds me of the spectacle of gladiator fights in ancient Rome) — I just can’t help but wish there was a way to retain the drama, bravery, action and skill of the toreros without the brutal end for the bull..If you think about it, It’s very strange and poignant contradiction between the exceptionally high standards of animal husbandry amongst bull breeders and the brutal way so many of these animals end their life after several years on the farm..

    • Jamie, it’s a good point you make about the contradiction between the high standards of husbandry and the brutal death of the bulls. If there were some way to play-act the performance of the fight without injury to the bull, that would be great. Guess the problem, unlike sports such as WWF wrestling, it’s pretty hard to train a bull?

  8. Hi Jo
    Your article brought back a lot of fond memories. I have been to Ronda a couple of times. I’ve even been inside the bullring there but not to watch the performance. I did however go to the bull fighting arena in Seville and another time one in Estapona. At first I was horrified then I began to accept this Spanish sport. Yes it’s pretty cruel and all that stuff but it’s the Spanish way. When in Rome you do as the Romans do. (Whatever that is supposed to mean). Yes I know the Spaniards like to play with their food in public. But remember that once the bull is killed and carted off, it’s given to the poor – or so they say. Ordinary folk don’t go to the abattoir to see how their food is slaughtered but they are more than happy to go to the supermarket and buy their bit of cow. What’s the real difference. If people can’t stomach watching a bullfight you shouldn’t go to one just like you won’t go to an abattoir to buy the meat you put in your stomach. We as Homo sapiens shouldn’t eat animal flesh let alone play with it.

  9. Wow…I have LOTS to say. OK, first, bullfights are NOT for “fun” or “shits and giggles!” The animal is EATEN and if you disapprove of it, how can you support fishing where the animal is hooked and flaps about weakly before it’s thrown ALIVE into some cooler to suffocate to death?! Or what about lobster?! If you’re not Spanish, you have NO right to weigh in and the majority of Spanish DO find bullfighting to be part of their culture! In fact, in Andalucía, the largest region and the most “Spanish” it is part of their identity! So quit speaking for them or trying to twist their words! If you eat a Big Mac or any other chain food, than you’re supporting an institution that kills THOUSANDS more livestock than any bullfights, many of which are given chemicals,steroids and almost never see the sun or ggrass! I’ve lived in And a Lucia for two years and have seen the fighting bull farms! And you know what?! They look strong, happy and grazing before they go off to fight! So whoever said they get “tortured” before a fight is a damned liar! And PETA is a notorious terrorist, hypocritical organization that defends animals but won’t hesitate to hurt their fellow man! In Spain, almost EVERY part of the animal is eaten even the tail, head and balls! Now compare that to kosher meats that don’t eat the bottom half of the animal! That’s FAR more wasteful! Like it or not, humans and animals are NOT the same! We can eat animals but nor each other, we can OWN animals but not other humans! And animals eat each other all the damn time sometimes even cruelly (orcas will “play” with their food usually otters and by “play” I mean tear it apart and throw it back and forth to each other!) So kindly get your heads out of your butts and realize that nature is NOT animals holdings hands in the forest! We have human trafficking, drugs, wars and genocides! In many countries human women and minoritiesare ffighting for basic human rights everyday! Yet you people want to focus on THIS?! If France, the Iberians and Latin America want to ban or promote bullfighting that’s THEIR business! Everyone else needs to get a damb life and try to change things for your fellow man FIRST who are often homeless or dying of hunger! Then think about the “innocent” bull (many times who if left in the wild will charge and gore you!) :/

  10. The Tajo Gorge is stunning!

    I went to a bullfight last summer during San Fermin and I was disgusted, I had to leave early, it was just not my type of party.

    • Chanel, I completely understand. I had a huge disconnect in my head between the notion of Spain and bullfighting (the artsy posters we see promoting the matadors and a bull running under his cloak) and the reality – brutal slaughter. I spoke to a couple of girls I met about bullfighting and they agreed it was a vile sport. Later, proud, they declared they had been to the bullring but not a fight and were pleased to not support the sport. Gently, I pointed out that they had supported it with their entry fee. I could see they were angry with themselves. As someone else said, moral matters can be hard to navigate. PS: The gorge is stunning 🙂

  11. Great piece Jo, really resonated with me. I know its impossible to steer a straight line through the morality, but being mindful is a great start. Well done!

    • Thanks Roda, “it’s impossible to steer a straight line through morality” – nicely put! And I agree, just turning our minds to the questions is as good a start as any! Glad you enjoyed the article.

  12. Hi Jo,

    Knowing you, you may want to re-think the Faroe Islands. Are aware that not only are alcoholic drinks horrendously expensive, they are also rationed by the Government?

    On the other subject, I have always been fascinated by the greater concern shown by Brits for animals rather than humans. The Brits have a ROYAL Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but only a NATIONAL Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Childen.


    • Hi Gary, good tips on th Faroe islands. India was tough enough!! And on the other subject, that is an excellent and interesting point!

  13. I find the calculator on to be very usable, unlike many of them, and it doesn’t seem to be directing you as soon as possible to pay money to offset your CO2, unlike many websites. It also allows you to see.what differences answers to individual lifestyle answers make to your total, which shows where to direct attention.

    has a different calculator with more detail such as ferry travel but it is far more detailed than and less ‘fun’ as a result.

    Using the first one above, you can get a feel for which lifestyle and travel changes will do most to cut your carbon to your desired level. And once you know that the suggested level is 2 tonnes a year per person, you’ll see the challenge. It can seem daunting but, without wanting to use a probably over-used quote, it’s one of those cases where Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see in the world” really does apply.

    In terms of understanding the need for change and what people can do, I found the Friends of the Earth and Soil Association websites to be good, as well as the summary of the Stern Review report on climate change.

    • Nic, that is so unbelievably helpful, thank you! I think I’ll start with the first calculator for simplicity’s sake. I’m familiar with the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth but I’ll check out the Stern Review. I suspect it will feel like a mountain to climb when I start but it’s better to start somewhere than not start at all – love the Gandhi quote – very appropriate. Thanks again!

  14. Ingrained in the culture or not, bullfighting is cruel. It’s torture. It’s not a fair ‘fight’ and I don’t understand how anyone could get pleasure out of watching one.

    I’m not a big meat eater, but I am not against hunting for food. In fact, eating food that has been hunted, like deer, that runs free for its entire life, is a lot more humane that eating a cow or chicken that has been cooped up for life.

    But trophy hunting is a lot different to hunting for food. And hunting for lions in Africa, is just that trophy hunting. It’s not brave and it’s not for food.

    Torturing and killing for pleasure, whether you are the matador or a spectator is something I cannot get my head around!

    Great post Jo!

  15. Hi Jo,

    I did not say that I support Spaniards holding bullfights. I support the right of Spaniards to decide without external intervention. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on bullfighting in Spain and has every right to express that opinion. Only the Spanish have the right to decide what can and cannot be done in their country.


    • Hi Gary, I know you’re not for bullfighting. I was just interested about the idea that you’re against the practice of bullfighting but believe it’s ok for the Spaniards to choose. Thinking aloud here…I guess it’s the same tolerance veggies have for meat eaters. But I wonder, would you feel differently if bulls were endangered…I’m straying into African trophy hunting here. Not wanting to put you on the spot, just interested 🙂

  16. I’ve had a similar travel-based revelation and many similar conclusions. Mine came from whale-watching off Vancouver Island and finding out how the breeding numbers of an entire sub-species can be so low due to the fertility impact of being at the top of the food chain and gradually accumulating more toxins derived from inorganic farming and other chemicals reaching the food chain. It made me really look into what being organic means and what I could do about it.

    For me it is partly about animal welfare, and in many ways that is the easier thing, and choosing organic food makes a big difference. But climate change requires more wide-ranging lifestyle change and is a far bigger and more urgent threat. It is a bigger threat to animal conservation as well as human welfare. And it is why I don’t mind the existence of zoos if they are properly engaged in conservation work, even if I can’t visit some if them (e.g., London Zoo) due to their layout.

    So now as a permanent traveller I cut down on beef and cow’s milk, buy more local products, look more for second-hand clothes and other products, stay mostly in people’s homes not in hotels and hostels (which by their nature demand more extra energy to build and run. And mainly, aided by the luxury of a 20 year travel plan, try to limit flights to where it is really necessary, eg across oceans. Doing all the other anti-carbon things are completely dwarfed by flight emissions from regular air travel.

    This year I’m counting my carbon and allowed myself a short flight from London-based Malaga but will get a ferry back to the UK. Ultimately it is all about whether this matters enough to the individual to spend the extra money involved. It is like buying insurance against a really bad future, maybe not even one we will witness but one we may otherwise contribute to. I still need to do better but moving from the lifestyle I had 3 years ago is a process. And offsetting the carbon isn’t enough either. It’s hard.

    On bullfighting, there is clear pride in it on some level all across Andalucia, based on the bars and restaurants will wall to wall paraphernalia. In Cadiz I saw toy bullrings in shop windows, so maybe the culture will persist for some time yet. I am also saddened and outraged, as I am with homophobia in Russia etc, but I also think we need to try to understand why people feel these ways if we are to do anything about it. A gut reaction and telling people they are morally wrong isn’t going to get to the place we want to be. But if I had a vote, of course I’d vote against cruelties like bullfighting. The posters all talk about ‘the brave bull’ as if it had a choice – how ridiculous. If you defend this you might as well defend human gladiator contests to the death. There can be no pride in libertarianism if it lets this kind of thing happen.

    • Hi Nic, that’s really inspiring! I’ll be honest, I haven’t totted up my carbon footprint and it’s something I should look into it. Any good suggestions for websites to check out? I don’t think I do too bad. Like you, I use buses and local transport a lot. I love ferries, too but sometimes there are limited options e.g. getting over to the Americas…though I wonder if a boat might be a cost effective option? i’m pretty terrible in Europe because flights are almost always cheaper than getting from the UK to the continent and even between countries by train. Also an interesting point on zoos. It kind of freaks me out – the more I think about this stuff, the more I realise I don’t know and I think I could spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out and still not managing too. Guess the important point is making a start? As for bullfighting, it is so ingrained in culture that doesn’t appear wrong in the same way that us meat-eaters comfortably allow an animal to be killed for our dinner. Hence my conflict!

  17. To be blunt, bullfighting nauseates me. No, I don’t understand it. I don’t want to understand it, because there *is* no reason for it. “Entertainment” isn’t a valid reason for torturing an animal to death. I recently crossed a country off my to-visit list because I discovered something I consider morally unacceptable…the “whale drive” on the Faroe Islands. Ugh. That sparked an interesting discussion around the dinner table…is it reasonable to apply my moral judgement on another culture? Depends.

    PS. I eat meat. Happily. Yes, I try and make sure it’s free range, organic and all the rest. I *can* assure you I don’t stick my dinner chicken with pins before pulling up a chair to watch it stuck with spears for my amusement before I roast it.

    • I didn’t know that about the Faroe Islands 🙁 It wasn’t on but now isn’t going to be on my travel wish list. I recently scrubbed Russia off the list too thanks to its anti-gay sentiments. It’s a very good point you make about meat eating and not torturing it before you dine on your chicken. Eating Foie Gras is probably my biggest sin but if it is possible to defend my action, it’s not done for entertainment. That said, I know it’s still too far for some people and mass market farming could definitely be considered torture I’m sure. What’s troubling me is trying to understand what is and isn’t organic when you travel. Kind of ironically, I suspect the less developed the country, the more likely their farming will be natural.

  18. Hi Jo,

    I do not defend bullfighting and would probably never go to a bullfight.

    BUT, I will defend to the death the right of Spaniards to hold and enjoy bullfighting in their own country, where it is legal.

    As I will defend the right of the French to produce foie gras for me to eat, despite what the animal rights terrorists think.


    • Gary, I knew I could count on you for an opinion 🙂 I’m surprised you’d support Spaniards holding bullfights. Why? Because it’s their country and they can do what they want? As you know, I’ve eaten foie gras and, in honesty, I would eat it again…these morals are complicated!

    • Do you also defend the rights of African countries that “legally” mutilate their Daughters genitalia, do you support Tanzania in still burning Women for heresy?, Do you also defend the rights of Iran to stone women to death for adultery? Just because something is legal, does not make it correct.
      I notice you mention “the rights” of the Spanish people should be allowed to do what they want within the law, how about the rights of the bull? Does it deserve to be tortured and killed for fun? Thank God not everyone thinks in this selfish manner, or they would still be throwing goats from the top of church towers and blowing darts into living bulls.
      There are millions of people eat foie gras, (I have very much enjoyed it myself in the past), and most do not realise the cruelty that is involved in producing this product. Anyone that IS aware, and continues to eat it are very cruel to perpetuate it. It is not US that are the terrorists it is people with attitudes like yours!

      • Red, I’m sure Gary would make a significant distinction between the treatment of animals and humans and hasn’t suggested for a second that mutilation or stoning of women, amongst other things, is acceptable. You mention you have eaten foie gras. As have I. Out of interest, did you realise how the product was produced before you ate it? Would you eat it again? I’ve been doing a bit more on fore gras recently and came across this article which defends the product on the basis that feeding the birds does no more than replicate their own natural process. It’s an interesting argument:

        • Hello Jo.
          First of all I have to congratulate you on finding article that considers Foie gras an “ethical food”. I didn’t know one existed! I notice the journalist who obviously hates animal rights activists, also works for the pharmaceutical industry, and so maybe has a vested interest in ridiculing those that consider the rights of animals is important.
          This is not a fact written article at all. No “wild” animal on this universe would eat enough food to cause disease to its own liver, this is why they are force fed. If you want to see the facts on the production of foie then watch them here: If you think this is an desolated case, let me know and I can send you plenty more “facts”.

          • Sorry Posted before I had finished….Yes I have eaten foie, and yes I loved it. But I had NO idea what went on to produce it. Once I did, how could I ever eat it again? There is no ethical way to produce this product, only a monster could perpetuate this business. Ignorance is one thing but ignoring the suffering of these animals is another.
            Regarding Gary making “a distinction” to animals and humans. Presuming you realise that a human IS an animal also, do you think that the above mentioned “traditions” are acceptable treatment for some species and not another?
            We must remember that bulls have feelings just like you and I. By far the majority of Spanish people want this despicable business banned for ever. They want and need the help of people from outside their borders to campaign and boycott bullfighting. If it was not for “right wing politicians” tourists and European grants (given by taxpayers outside of Spain) this would of ended long ago.

          • It’s a fair point about foie gras – many people eat it without understanding the production methods, then stop. But I don’t think mass farmed meat and eggs are actually any better. Some of the conditions are abysmal. The only real moral option is being vegetarian or vegan, but that’s not something I intend to do so for now I’m just trying to be more careful. Out of interest, are you vegetarian? How do you find it?

            As for making a distinction between animals and humans, that was my point, not Gary’s (I kind of was assuming Gary would agree with me). Humans may be animals by distinction but evolution has obviously progressed us substantially more. I’m as against bull fighting as I am multination and stoning of women. I’ve signed a bunch of petitions against bull fighting and I agree about the grants – I’m NOT happy for my taxes to be used for this kind of “sport”.

          • Hey Red, thanks for the video – I have really poor connection right now but will watch it as soon as get stronger wi-fi…as for the article I found, there are plenty out there defending foie gras. Took me seconds to find this one. But, as I said, I’ll watch the video. It’s an interesting point about animals not causing disease to their own liver. You then go on to say that humans, too are animals, yet each year millions of us do exactly that – disease our livers from excess consumption of alcohol and kill our bodies with too much sugar. I’m no expert on this subject by any means but examples do exist.

    • I do not think that Spain have a right to torture animals, particularly when I, as a British taxpayer, am forced to contribute, via the Euopean Union, the subsidisation of the thousands of bull rearing farms, and also the rings themselves. We, the British public are forced to financially support bull fighting, and I really struggle to find adequate words in the English language to express how that makes me feel. ditto Foie gras. Anybody who eats it, knowing how it comes about, is not a human being.

      • Susan, I completely agree. I hadn’t really thought this through on the tax front but if that is what’s happening to our taxes, that makes me even more angry. Sigh.

  19. Another excellent article.
    Just to mention one teeny weeny thing – The Spectrum of Animal Richts para-“at odds with what my reality” ? x


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