Horses – the forgotten victims of bullfighting

This photo is from 2001 in the bullring of Madrid.
This photo is from 2001 in the bullring of Madrid.

What is a bullfight, and who suffers in the bloody so-called sport, asks Maria Lopes.

In Anglo-Saxon countries bullfighting is regarded as a sport, perhaps due to lack of knowledge.

A horse is blind-folded before being used in a bullfight.
A horse is blind-folded before being used in a bullfight.

It is, after all, banned throughout the UK and the Commonwealth nations, as well as most of Europe. In countries where bullfighting is allowed it is increasingly becoming recognised as sheer barbarity. This savagery involves two beautiful animals, bulls and horses. While the bulls are guaranteed to die, the future of the horses is often no brighter.

Bullfights take place in three European countries, France, Portugal and Spain and in some parts of Latin America. In some states of North America a form of bullfight is permitted but the animal is covered with velcro and the spears used are imitation.

It’s commonly believed that in Portuguese bullfights bulls or horses don’t suffer, unlike the Spanish versions. This is unfortunately a myth since the suffering is the same in both bullfight styles.

The only difference is that in Spanish bullrings the bull is killed in the ring instead of in the slaughterhouse when the “entertainment” is over.

Every year more than 50,000 bulls are killed in bullfights in Europe alone. Countless horses die or suffer severe injuries.

This photo was taken during a bullfight in Spain. The horse was killed.
This photo was taken during a bullfight in Spain. The horse was killed.

Bullfighters claim that bulls bred for bullfights are aggressive and fearsome animals. This is also untrue. They fight because they are fighting for their lives.

But bulls are not the only creatures to suffer in bullrings. The tormented bull does not understand that it is the man on the horse’s back that is causing his pain, only that he is in agony. He therefore sees the horse as his enemy as much as the man.

It’s not unusual for horses used in bullfights to be so badly gored by the bulls that they have to be killed, but only after they have been dragged from the ring and the view of the spectators.

Spanish bullfights also employ “picadors”, men on horseback armed with spears.

Scene from a Portuguese bullfight.
Scene from a Portuguese bullfight.

These horses are often gored even though they are protected by what is termed a “peto”, or a protective cape. These petos often do little more than hide the horses wounds.

The horses are blind-folded to prevent them from becoming terror stricken at the charge of the bull. It is commonly believed that their ears are stuffed with cotton-wool to prevent them from panicking and their vocal cords cut to stop them screaming with fear at the bull’s attack.

This is the fate of these beautiful animals. To be used to entertain a crowd that lusts for blood and claims that bullfighting is a tradition and “cultural heritage”.

What about the brave matadors, picadors and their ilk? Bullfighters are rarely injured and seldom killed in the ring. With their armoury of weapons to weaken the bull until it can no longer fight, their lives are not at great risk. In fact, in the last 50 years only 10 bullfighters have been killed worldwide.

Should you ever find yourself in a country where bullfighting is practiced, please do not be tempted to attend one of these sadistic displays. The continuation of bullfighting depends on government subsidies and the tourist industry. Don’t be an accomplice to this savagery by supporting it with your dollars.

Maria Lopes is the Co-ordinator of the International Movement Against Bullfights
© www.iwab.org 2006  This article may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission.

Further information: International Movement Against Bullfights. Read the “ongoing campaigns” section

Originally published on Horsetalk.co.nz in June, 2006

14 thoughts on “Horses – the forgotten victims of bullfighting

  • March 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm
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    How can there be no comments. This is pitiful. Add to that blindfolding an animal who has demonstrated its innate bravery and loyalty to its rider is criminal and cowardly.

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  • March 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm
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    Honestly, this is a much better cause to be up in arms about than the horse-slaughter debacle!
    How disgusting that this can go on in modern society.
    The way people justify things by “tradition” is really shameful.

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  • March 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm
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    Thank you for publishing this article. Bull “fighting” is a shameless display of mental illness. I will happily boycott touring any country which promotes this infantile and attention-seeking sadism for profit, as well as boycott that country’s products and services.

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  • March 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm
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    Absolutely disgusting. This is an atrocity and evil beyond words.

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  • March 15, 2013 at 3:57 am
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    Subsidized by the EU, Spanish Cultural Heritage, :-((((((((

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  • July 15, 2013 at 11:22 am
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    Just disgusting how those animals are treated!!! 🙁 I hope the assh*les that perform those barbaric acts to those animals, both horses and bulls feels the same pain someday!!!

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  • September 9, 2013 at 5:13 am
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    Slaughter, goring by bulls, tripping, soring, round ups, culling, PMU “farming” . . . Just a few of the many inhumane things that humans do to horses. One worse than the next. Why? For “entertainment” and profit. We will be judged for this in the end. All human wrongs against horses must end now.

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  • February 21, 2014 at 1:53 pm
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    People (if they can be called that) who participate in this are no better than the Nazis or Romans.

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  • May 5, 2014 at 9:04 am
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    over a century after Mark Twain wrote “A Horse’s Tale” showing the cruelty to both horses and bulls in this barbaric “entertainment” still this goes on ! “The horses are blind-folded to prevent them from becoming terror stricken at the charge of the bull. It is commonly believed that their ears are stuffed with cotton-wool to prevent them from panicking and their vocal cords cut to stop them screaming with fear at the bull’s attack.

    This is the fate of these beautiful animals. To be used to entertain a crowd that lusts for blood and claims that bullfighting is a tradition and “cultural heritage”.” this is the essence of the article what more needs to be said to abolish this practice once and for all ? As to Caitlin’s strange remark “this is a much better cause to be up in arms about than the debacle of horse slaughter” what in the hell are you talking about ? Do you think because there aren’t ringside seats built for people watching what goes on in horse slaughter plants it is any less painful and terrifying for the horses ?

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  • August 16, 2014 at 2:07 am
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    What a disgusting cruel way to treat horses,they did not ask to be stabbed with bulls horns,just made to work,why do they have to involved in this outdated spectacle,if these people want to fight bulls get on with it if you think that is fun and sport,leave any other animals out of it.

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  • April 8, 2016 at 5:20 am
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    Signed & shared

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  • April 26, 2016 at 11:37 pm
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    STOP WITH THIS STUPIDITY OF MAKING THIS TO ANINALS!

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  • June 2, 2016 at 9:47 pm
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    While I lived in the Azores I saw several bullfights. However, what I saw there, was not like what I see here and have seen on tv in Spain. On my island, the bulls are revered because they drove away the nazi’s during the wars. So they don’t die or get hurt.
    They put the bull on a rope, like 100 feet long, and have maybe 4-5 guys holding it. They paint two lines, one at one end of the street, and the other about 1/2 mile away at the other end. Then they turn the bull loose. Its got free reign to run up and down the street while people attempt to touch it, hands only, on its forehead. They are allowed to run into yards, houses, over fences, vehicles, anywhere they want to go. The guys on the rope just pull it back when it actually goes INTO someones home or store so they can get it back out.
    During SanJoaninas, they attach darts on the bull until its tired, then have men hold it by the horns and tail before they bring cows in the arena to lure it back out. The closest thing I saw to the ‘running of the bulls’ was during the festival called “free bull” where its the same as the roped bulls, except no rope and many bulls…sometimes 4 or more at once. All the streets are cobblestones so the bulls tend to slip a bit, but on the sand the bulls had the advantage for sure. Their horns are corked so there aren’t any massive gorings, but LOTS of trampling. I never saw a bull get killed. Though I did still feel badly for the animals….still forced to ‘perform’ for humans. I just wanted to pet one… then I remembered it was a bull.
    So I’m not saying that bullfighting is a sport, or even humane, but I am saying that the Portuguese, and specifically the Azores, bullfighting isn’t as bad at the rest.

    Reply

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