Proponents of bullfighting claim that it is an art form, a centuries-old tradition and an integral part of Hispanic culture. In reality, bullfighting is a cruel bloodsport in which thousands of animals are tortured and killed each year.

Bullfighting is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and parts of South America. The bull is baited by men on foot and on horseback before it is eventually killed. Bull ‘running’, such as at Pamplona, is where the bulls are ‘run’ to the bullring – where they will then be killed.

In some countries, such as Portugal, it is illegal to kill a bull in the ring. This form of bullfighting is sometimes referred to as “bloodless,” although the bull still suffers considerable pain and distress and is usually killed after leaving the ring.

What is it?

In a typical bullfight, the bull is attacked by men on foot and on horseback with lances and harpoons. The matador forces the confused and exhausted bull to make a few charges before eventually attempting to kill it with a sword. If not killed, the bull is stabbed repeatedly until paralysed. When the bull finally collapses its spinal cord is cut, but the animal may still be conscious as its ears and tail are cut off and kept as a trophy.

If you think it’s a fair fight, think again. Bullfighting bulls are specially bred, short-sighted animals which are prepared for the fight in a variety of ways, such as being beaten, kept without food and water for two days, having vaseline put in their eyes and generally weakened before they meet the matador.

What you should know

  • 13,300 bulls are killed in official bullfights each year (the equivalent of 36 bulls every day). The total number killed is estimated to be three times as high.
  • Up to 200 horses are killed in bullfights each year, usually as a result of being gored by the bull. Many more horses suffer serious injuries.
  • Whilst bullfighting is still legal in most parts of Spain, it is banned by law in Catalonia and in the Canary Islands. Bullfighting is banned by law in most parts of France. However, it remains legal in parts of the south of the country.
  • Despite claims to the contrary, bullfighting is not a key economic sector. Less than 400 people are employed full-time all year round by the bullfighting industry in Spain.
  • The European bullfighting industry receives up to 600 million Euros a year in public funding. An estimated £37 million is paid by the European Union each year in subsidies to farms which breed bulls for bullfighting.
  • Recent opinion polls have shown that a significant majority of people are against bullfighting. 89% of British people would not visit a bullfight (ComRes, 2008), whilst in Spain 67% are not interested in bullfighting (Gallup, 2008). In France, 69% of people oppose public funding for bullfighting (YouGov, 2009).

What you can do

  • Do not visit bullfights or any other fiestas involving bull running, and ask your friends and family to do the same.
  • Boycott travel agents, tour operators, hotels, restaurants and companies that promote bullfighting, letting them know why you are doing so.
  • Contact the League Against Cruel Sports with information on towns or cities that have permanent, active bullrings or tell us about travel agencies and other businesses promoting bullfighting in the UK.

Where, geographically, is this applicable

Bullfighting takes place in a relatively small number of countries across the world including Spain, Portugal, France, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala and the USA.

A much higher number of countries have banned bullfighting by law. These countries include Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

More information

Links to organisations for further information

This article was contributed by the League Against Cruel Sports