Have you ever felt unsure about something and wanted to learn more about it, but in doing so was worried that you were supporting it at the same time?
I have one word for you: bullfighting.
When I was 13, my mom, sister, and I traveled to Spain on a two-week tour. One optional excursion was attending a bullfight. Too much of a wimp, I declined. It sounded scary. And bloody.
I was recently in Madrid and contemplated visiting the city’s famous bullfighting ring—Las Ventas. There was no event—I was just considering a tour of the ring itself. I didn’t know a lot about bullfighting, wasn’t sure how I felt about it, and decided a visit might help me learn more. But I wavered. Would going on a tour show support for the sport? In the end, I decided to go, hoping that it would help me understand bullfighting and the culture surrounding it and crystallize my opinion.
The individual tour is well organized. I selected an English audioguide from eight different languages and explored the grand facility at my own pace. The day I went, an un-related special event occupied a huge tent in the ring. While I wasn’t able to step into the ring itself, it didn’t detract from the view and the overall experience.
Then I entered the corrals and pens. Although completely empty, I smelled the bulls and saw faint stains on the walls. The stench brought a dose of reality to the otherwise romanticized tour.
Oddly, I was glad to learn that the meat of the bull is eaten. I don’t understand how the bull’s death is “heroic,” but I eat meat, so I understand that animals are killed for food.
Of course, how they’re killed can make a difference. To me, therein lies the difference. The big difference.
You decide for yourself. My opinion has crystallized. You can dress it up however you want—sport, ritual, cultural phenomenon—the bottom line is that bullfighting’s entire goal is to kill bulls in an uneven, unfair, and tortuous spectacle. As you may have gathered, I’m not a fan.