Should The Spanish Tradition of Bull Fighting Be Stopped?

Denise Spratt

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Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas . Photo credit: Denise Spratt
Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas . Photo credit: Denise Spratt

I was travelling around Spain and I wanted to soak up as much of their culture as I possibly could. Last on my list was to visit the Famous Bull Fighting Arena in Madrid.

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is a famous bullring situated in Madrid, Spain. The bullfighting season starts in March and ends in October. Your ticket can be bought on the door or online in advance.

Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is a famous bullring located in Madrid, Spain. Photo Credit: Denise Spratt
Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is a famous bullring located in Madrid, Spain. Photo Credit: Denise Spratt

When I was on my way to a bull fight in the famous bullring, I imagined it would be like the bull fighting scenes you see on TV or in films, where the Matador gets chased out of the ring and jumps the wall ! I couldn’t wait to experience this old tradition. But this experience is one that I’ll never forget, and not for a good reason.

The Arena looked beautiful and rustic. It had amazing walls of painted images inside that burst with colour and caught my eye the minute I went inside.

Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas interior art . Photo Credit: Denise Spratt
Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas interior art . Photo Credit: Denise Spratt

As they showed us to our seat, it was like being inside one of the ancient colosseums from Rome. It was magnificent with the sun beating down. No one was allowed to sit near the edge and no one could leave the bullring until the fight had finished. It was amazing to see the Bright colours and embellished suits that the matadors wore as a small opening parade began in the middle of the bullring. There were several matadors who came out and performed an opening ceremony with their capes and full uniform. They were accompanied by armoured Men on armoured horses and a chariot of three donkeys.

The performers who participate in the bullfight include: the main performer, who is the leader of an entourage and the one who kills the bull and is addressed as maestro (master), or with the formal title matador de Toros (killer of bulls); the other bullfighters in the entourage are called subalternos. I didn’t know this originally and I thought the fight was just one on one with one matador and a bull. When the ceremony was over these matadors would re-entry the ring with their capes and some pikes that had red and yellow frills on them. I didn’t understand why they had these but I was about to find out.

The bull finally was released. These bulls were not like any bulls I have ever seen. These bulls looked like they were on steroids and lifted heavy weights in the gym! They were tanks. Each matador took their turn if teasing the bull and making it charge at them. Some would use their capes and others would be chased by the bull and jump behind a barrier to safety. I then found out what the spikes were for. Each matador would take a turn , with one spike in each hand, and charge head-first towards the bull but then jump to the side to avoid it as he would plunge these spikes into the bull’s back. My stomach turned violently ill. I saw the blood erupt from the bull’s back like a fountain and by the end of this ritual the bull could have up to 8 or 9 pikes sticking out of his back. It was heartbreaking to see as people cheered this behaviour. This was to slow down the bull. After rounds of this to tire him out. The maestro would approach the bull with a long sword hidden behind his cape as he dances around him with it, making him more tired and drained of energy. When the maestro was ready , he would then charge head-first towards the bull and plunge the sword down into the middle of his spine. I could barely look as even more blood poured from the animal. I never realized the cruelty in this blood thirsty sport.

Once the sword was in the bull’s spine, it began to sway side-to-side and eventually would fall down. All the matadors would approach the bull and one would take out a small dagger which was plunged into the bull’s temple. My entire body became tense with rage and I felt sick to my stomach as I saw the bull’s body spasm out if control on that final blow. Once it was dead, the chariot of donkeys would drag the dead corps away by ropes, across the dirt, and it left a trail of blood and a sour taste in my mouth.

I tried to leave but I was not allowed as the next bull had already been brought out. It was bad enough having to witness such cruelty once, but to see it five more times was just crazy.

Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas . Photo credit: Denise Spratt
Plaza de Toros De Las Ventas . Photo credit: Denise Spratt

Should this tradition of Bull Fighting Be stopped and banned ? What do you think ? I definitely won’t be going back again and I hope this cruelty stops.

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Denise Spratt