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Bull or No Bull? PDF
Wednesday, 14 October 2009 00:00

Paul Whitelock

Should bullfighting be banned on the grounds of cruelty or celebrated as a spectacle of skill and courage which is part of the cultural tradition of Spain? A sometime fan, I attended my first corrida at the age of 21 and my most recent 18 months ago when I was 58.

As the bullfight season in Spain draws to a close, never before has so much controversy raged about this centuries-old Spanish spectacle.
This year’s San Fermín festival in Pamplona in July provoked huge controversy after the death of a 27-year-old man from Madrid during the encierro, or bull-running, the fourth death in the last 30 years and the 15th in all since the bull-runnings started in 1922. 
Eyebrows were raised when the sexagenarian English matador from Salford, Frank Evans, made a comeback in the ring at Benalmádena in August after major heart and knee surgery. 
But most significant of all, there is to be a vote shortly in the Catalonia parliament on bullfighting in the region, which is expected to result in a ban there. [Note: The vote has since taken place and bullfighting will indeed be banned in the region].
The anti-blood sports lobby in Spain has certainly become more vocal in recent times. Yet English-speaking animal lovers have been criticising this most-Spanish of cultural pastimes for decades. Why? Is it because in the English-speaker’s psyche, the notion of a fight or contest is ingrained, because of the mistranslation of the Spanish terminology associated with los toros? In Spanish, you see, the concept of “fight” or “contest” or “struggle” does not occur, because to the Spanish los toros isn’t a fight at all – it’s nothing more nor less than a brightly-coloured spectacle, designed to pit the bravery, skill and guile of the torero against the brute strength, power and hostility of the toro bravo.
For example, what we know as the bullfight is la corrida de toros (bull-running), a bullfighter is a torero (a person who works with bulls), matador means killer and bullfighting as a term is usually just referred to as los toros (the bulls).
Whatever the reasons, and irrespective of the Catalonian ban, bullfighting will continue elsewhere in Spain, in France and in Latin America.  Nevertheless, the debate will continue to rage for years to come.

Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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