The bullfight. The very word conjures up romantic images of the heroic matador, the epitome of masculinity, bravely and manfully facing down the raging bull. The matador (or torero) stands alone in front of the evil beast. The matador must vanquish the mighty animal with only his bare hands and the moral support of his faithful picadors and banderilleros who encourage the matador with stern, macho glances and occasional deep acupuncture of the savage bull to reduce its dangerously high blood pressure and volume. Sadly, this noble ritual is falling victim to modernity as the fickle public loses touch with the wisdom of the ancients and the honourable traditions they gifted to the oblivious generations of today. Fewer and fewer people attend bullfights while more and more soft-headed bleeding-heart hippie tree-huggers screech and rail against the alleged cruelty of the bullfight. Some, such as the Humane Society International, even go so far as to assert that “Bullfighting is not culture; it is cruelty“. Indeed, if bullfighting were cruel, then we would be forced to admit that it is not culture, because since when has any culture included any elements of cruelty? But bullfighting is not cruel.
Rather than jump to the hasty conclusion that the mean old matador is picking on the poor little bull, look at the facts. Rather than attacking the matador, we should be thanking him for protecting the helpless crowd from the violent onslaught of the bloodthirsty bull. While others around him scatter in panic, the matador alone finds the courage within to battle against the cold-blooded, murderous bull who has sworn to murder him and his innocent children. The bull — a bully, in the truest sense of the word — has only meaningless destruction and wanton slaughter on his agenda, and he must be stopped. But if our understanding of the bullfight only goes this far, then we will have missed its true depth, its richness and nuance. The bullfight is not just an act of defiance against the oppressive reign of terror of bulls over humanity — it is in fact a profound expression of reverence for the bull. Even in the face of the merciless depravity of the bull, the matador can see the tiny spark of dignity that it has buried deep inside itself. The bullfight graces the bull with the absolution of its sins and the reprieve of its soul through self-sacrifice. In these final moments, the bull, once so tormented by the error of its inhumane ways, finally finds the peace that it had so long sought in vain, and though the bull dies, the gratitude you can see in its eyes never shall. And why should it surprise us that the bull feels gratitude in these moments? It is no different than the gratitude an antelope feels when being shot while foraging. It is no different than the gratitude a baby seal feels while being clubbed to death by a friendly hunter. And you know how we call animals that we hunt ‘game’? Well, who are we to say that the animals don’t find the game fun too? This goes for fish as well — can you even imagine the sheer delight of having a sharp metal hook dragging you violently by the mouth or guts, after which you get unhooked more or less cleanly and tossed playfully back into the splashy surf? Quit it with your party-pooping already, let the animals have their fun too.