Skip to content

Stop bullfighting but carry on bullrunning, really?

“The only place where you could see life and death, i. e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it” wrote Ernest Hemingway. These days he couldn’t go to Catalunya to find some inspiration because bullfighting is banned. The decision was very controversial and it came as a result of a petition signed by 180.000 people who think that torturing animals just for the sake of fun is morally outrageous.

Bullfighting supporters adduced several reasons for maintaining the “spectacle”. Firstly, they gave what we can call a conservative argument. They said that bullfighting is a rooted tradition, like flamenco or paella, and there is value in keeping meaningful traditions alive. Secondly, they put forward an aesthetic argument. There is beauty in a corrida (a bullfight): the outfit, the risk of death, the bravery of the matador. The work of great artists like Hemingway, Almodovar or Garcia Lorca has been inspired by the ritual. A third and more twisted reason was the animalist argument. It was claimed that bullfighting is a good means to preserve the animals. The kind of bulls that are used in bullfighting are of a particular kind (toros de lidia). They are raised only for the ritual and they have a very good life until “their day arrives”– they enjoy better conditions than farmed animals so they can be brave enough. Finally, bullfighting supporters denounced that the interest behind the abolitionist campaign was not moral but political. For them, the popular initiative was not the result of a genuine concern for the animals but of the separatists’ strategy to dissociate Catalunya from anything considered as quintessentially Spanish. We can call this reasoning the political argument.

None of these reasons was considered sound enough and the Catalan Parliament finally banned the ritual. Several Catalan cities declared themselves officially “anti-taurine”.  The decision was broadly reported and Catalunya is now perceived by other countries as animal friendly and progressive compared to the other regions of Spain. Unfortunately, that judgment might be too hasty. Foreign media missed the second episode of this story, which doesn’t go in the same direction. Shortly after banning bullfighting, the Catalan Parliament passed another law allowing bullruning (translation from Catalan correbous), a very popular practice in some villages in the South of Catalunya that involves animal abuse. Sometimes the bull is immobilized in order to put one torch in each of its horns and released on the streets after setting fire on him. Other times, the horns are tied up with several ropes and the bull is pulled and dragged by several people. In this case the debate was short and less controversial, partly because animal defenders were not present. Is it possible to find coherence between the two decisions?

The immediate answer given by policy-makers has to do with animal suffering. In bullfighting the bull is killed and in bullruning it is not. But this is a bad argument. In this provincial practice the animal suffers a lot of emotional stress and injuries – bulls are beaten with sticks, they get burned, and in some places people give them electroshocks in order to make them move. The bulls that participate in these practices don’t die but they suffer abuses regularly and for several years until they become “useless”. They might live longer than the bulls that are used in bullfighting but they certainly have a worse life. Besides that, if we consider the aggregate animal suffering bullrunning can be worse. Each year, there are more than 200 bullrunning events in Catalunya and its popularity is increasing. By contrast, the number of corridas diminished drastically during the last decades. In the 70’s there were 80 corridas per year but before the banning there were less than 15. It seems that if we are worried about animal suffering we have equal or superior reason to ban bullrunning as well.

Moreover, one could say that bullrunning is in one aspect worse. In bullfighting only the matador is actively inflicting pain on the animal whereas in bullrunning a huge amount of people are involved. In villages were bullrunning is popular many citizens participate in these events provoking, beating, confusing and torturing an animal. One could say that this active role potentiates savage and violent attitudes, particularly towards animals. That might also happen to those who watch corridas but in a lesser degree due to the fact that they sit passively somewhere in the bullring -or in their house-; there is no interaction between them and the animal. Some people pointed out that there is another sense in which bullrunning is worse. It could never be considered an art. There is no beauty in seeing a bunch of people running in front of a bull shouting and usually badly dressed. It is a barbaric scene that only shows our lower instincts.

There is another reason that might explain the difference between the two decisions of the Catalan legislator. Bullrunning is a tradition in Catalunya – at least in some parts of it- whereas bullfighting is not. The numbers given before support this hypothesis. Most of the bullfight rings in Catalunya were already closed before the ban. Bullrunning, on the contrary, is deeply rooted in Southern Catalan villages. The question is, obviously, whether tradition can legitimize such practice. I don’t think it can. Clearly, the mere fact that some practice has been going on for decades or centuries, by itself, doesn’t make it a good practice. There has to be room for moral progress. History is full of examples; perhaps the most obvious of all is slavery.

However, I want to draw attention to a kind of reasoning that seems clearly wrong to me. Some people agree that tradition cannot justify animal suffering but they change their mind when it comes to religion. For instance, certain practices like Shechita and    Dhabiha, the kind of animal slaughtering practiced by Jewish and Muslims respectively, are legal in Spain and the majority of European countries. These techniques cause unnecessary suffering to animals but they are allowed in the name of “freedom of religion”. Shouldn’t “freedom of tradition” be equally protected? The British don’t think so. Recently they banned the horrible tradition of “fox haunting” but they allow Jewish and Muslim slaughtering despite several reports by experts against both practices. In what way can we say that religion has a superior legitimizing force? Often people answer this question by saying that religion defines personal identity and expresses very important values. So does tradition. This is not a case in favour of bullrunning. I just want you to consider that the reasons we have to stop animal suffering caused by traditions should also apply to cases in which suffering is mandated by religion.

Share on

46 Comment on this post

  1. Religion per se is hardly the matter here. "Tradition" can be used for anything. Some tribes in my homeland used to eat human meat, but that is forbidden. Some traditions state, explicitly, that women are inferior to men and must be treated as such, and that is also forbidden. I am pretty sure there are religions that advocate the regular use of drugs (such as marijuana and some kinds of plants), but they are not allowed to practice their tradition in the UK, for obvious reasons. I am a Buddhist, but I can't wear one of my holy symbols in public because the swastika is banned in Germany.

    Allowing an exception for jews and muslims, only because they are a large underrepresented group, is a terrible mistake, and utterly injust. And the problem goes deeper:

    [Taken from that BBC article:] "Muslims and Jews … say they will fight any attempt to prevent a practice required by their religion and central to their way of life."

    Now, they are saying that their traditions are more important than Englans's civil law. This is a juridical issue and must be dealt as such, with no interference from religion or philosophy. If a law is passed, they must obey. To rebel agaist it is a crime and must be punished.

    This conflict between "right to traditions" and "duty to the constitution" is very clear in Germany. Something funny happened some time ago: in a visit to Germany, the Turkish president said that "all Turks who live in Germany must reject integration and fight to keep their tradition".

    However, dealing with significant and victimized groups such as jews and muslims is always complicated. Any attempt to restrict a part of their traditions can be easily turned into "colonialist attitude" or ethnocentrism. The solution would be a rational, impartial and logic discussion with the society, but that is unlikely to happen.

  2. Michelle Hutchinson

    Thank you for a very interesting article Jahel!
    Maybe people draw a difference between religion and tradition because, even if they don't subscribe to the religion in question, they acknowledge that that religion from its own point of view provides a much stronger reason for action than mere tradition – that there is an omnipotent and omniscient being who told people to act in that way. That might make certain actions allowable which would not be on the grounds of tradition, for two reasons. Firstly, it might make people far more worried about not being able to act in that way – they are angering an omniscient and omnipotent being by not doing what it said! Secondly, you might think that there was a chance they were actually right in their judgement that the being existed. Even if you thought the chance of God's existence was very small, given the huge penalty for angering Gem, it might not be worth doing something like banning practices which were explicitly prescribed.

  3. Thanks for your comments.

    Very interesting point Michelle! I guess that, at first sight, the feelings of guilt that religion can induce are pervasive whereas not following a tradition is not a big deal. However, there are some traditions that are supported by moral reasons and in these cases the bad feelings that someone can have if she cannot follow can ruin her life in the same way. For instance, female mutilation is a practice that in some places is mandated by religion (islamic) but in other places is required by cultural beliefs, i.e. a certain conception of women and sex. Surely, those who practice this tradition think that mutilation is very important and, because they want the "best" for their daughters, they don't want them to live with a non-mutilated organ. If they don't mutilate them they are not given what they consider is the best life for a woman. I am sure that the thought that you are not doing the best for your child and therefore you are not a good parent can cause a lot of frustration – a prove of it is that those who practice female circumcision and live in countries where it is banned protest against it and try to mutilate their daughters by any means. However, nobody would say that this frustration justifies allowing that practice.

    Theo, I agree that many of the issues that you mention are very complex and I don't have a good answer to them. Nevertheless, I want to point out a particularly dramatic aspect of the cases that I discussed. What bullfighting and religious slaughter have in common is that the victim of these practices is a group that, in the circumstances described, is particularly vulnerable, namely, animals. They are defenseless and with no means to have what you call a "rational, impartial and logic discussion. The correct way to think of Shechita is not as a matter of whether the majority should respect a tradition of a minority, the Jews. We should think if it is morally acceptable for a minority to inflict violence on another minority. I don't think the same happens when we discuss whether we should allow religious symbols in the public sphere.

  4. it's hard to take an article seriously that in the first paragraph tells us that the corrida is bannned in catalunya. i will see a bullfight in barcelona this june like featuring one of the great matadors of all time, Jose Tomas. he typically earns €400,000 per afternoon but i think it likely his fee will be donated to charity.

    from there this little piece simply disintegrates into comparisons of genital mutilation and the bullfight. yawn.

    bullfighting isn't in in decline but is in fact expanding even in a depressed european market. boring static from self important academic drones isn't going to change that anytime soon.

    1. The ban has been voted in, but doesn't take effect until January 2012 (the first BBC article linked to states this) . Sloppy writing by the author, but point of this blog is to deal with ethics, not the speed of political processes. If you feel like intelligently contributing to the discussion, go for it.

      All you've achieved with this post is to demonstrate a link between irrationality of argument (use of ad hominems) and support for abusing animals.

      1. After carefully reviewing the tone of all entries I come to the conclusion that in fact it's only dally who sounds a tad bitter… I trust that entries of that sort will be swiftly removed by the moderator.

      2. "driven to self -righteously attack people who are not hurting them or violating the laws of their own community"

        You may not be hurting me or Jahel, but by supporting bullfighting you are deliberately hurting other sentient creatures. Perhaps you should take your own advice, and leave the bulls the f-alone.

    2. Dally: I had to delete your other comments because they were abusive, which is in violation of our comment policy, which you can refer to here. We welcome dissenting opinion but please keep it polite.

      1. i will do my best. i have reviewed the rules. their application confuses me. "kyle" is allowed to profess hatred for religious people and refer to them as "brain dead" Miss Jahel Langhe writes that the Catalan people practice barbaric acts and are slaves to their "lower instincts"

        i will try to refine my message. in essence it is a call for tolerance.

  5. Whether something is legal or not is irrelevant to whether it should be considered ethical. In many cases it's legal to tell a lie, or to cheat on a partner. Historically, slavery was legal. Laws can change: just because something is legal doesn't mean it is morally acceptable. Hence, from January 2012, bullfighting will be illegal in Catalunya. That doesn't mean it is ethical now, but will be unethical in January.

  6. When you say 'imposing your values on others is unethical', I don't think you truly mean that. I believe you would be happy for a mass-murderer to be locked up in prison, even though that would be imposing your view (that mass-murdering is wrong) on another (the mass-murderer). Now clearly, you can argue that it is the mass-murderer that has imposed *his views* and actions on others: his victims. In which case you would be claiming that it is ok to impose one's views on another, if and only if the actions of the other also cause harm. This is essentially John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle.

    Now, you are stating that it is ok to cause harm to another, if that other is an animal, specifically a bull. But why? Animals can suffer. It is not shabby science to state that. Perhaps not to the same extent as normal adult humans, but in some cases possibly more (since an animal may not have an ability to realise their current suffering will eventually end). Why is it ok to impose significant suffering on an animal for one's own personal entertainment? I don't even need to equate animals and humans. I merely need to recognise that animals can suffer.

    1. you kill animals for entertainment every day. you could survive on windfall apples and oatmeal but you choose to enrich your life by killing animals and plants. a shepherds pie is far more than nutrition it is warmth and human conviviality. an encierro or corrida is the same yet Miss Queralt Lange claims that our cultural expressions spring from "lower instincts" i find that language abusive and intolerant. and the impulse behind it, to me seems to stem from an overweening desire to control others.

      1. I don't personally kill animals for *entertainment* any day. I don't even kill them for food, though even on a (mostly) vegan diet some animals will be harmed as consequence of harvesting methods. By the way, killing an animal is not necessarily worse than inflicting suffering on it. It could be argued that killing an animal for food, if done painlessly and immediately, is preferable to torturing one and keeping it alive. Bullfighting inflicts both suffering and death.

        Regardless, pointing out that someone else may be being hypocritical does not absolve you for your own actions. If everyone else went round raping, stealing and killing, it wouldn't mean it was ok for you to do so (except perhaps, if it involved self-defence).

        1. once again you equate universal values proscribing rape and murder of humans with esoteric values proscribing killing animals for entertainment. they are not same thing. if you were honest about adhering to your esoteric values your lifespan would nasty, short and ironically brutish. you do not want that. so instead you project these ideas outward on others. conveniently you have prepared the ground by implying that your targets are morally and ethically inferior, acting as it were on their "lower instincts"

          very highly charged language this, and redolent of an cultural imperialism that from this corner of the world has a familiar and unattractive odour.

          1. "once again you equate universal values proscribing rape and murder of humans with esoteric values proscribing killing animals for entertainment."

            I did not equate the two. I mentioned rape and murder as part of an argument explaining that pointing out hypocrisy in someone else's actions does not absolve you from your own actions. I did not claim rape and murder of humans is equivalent to bullfighting.

            Also, please don't ascribe other people's words to me. I did not mention anything about "lower instincts".

        2. Matt – cuisine is entertainment and vegan cuisine, while not quite attaining the heights of street mimes or drum circles is deeply felt entertainment for its adherents. and as you admit it is produced through the exploitation of plants and animals.

          you exploit those plants and animals to enrich your life, to make it more than just a brutish struggle for existence. you don't have to. when i attend mass at 7AM, eat a beefsteak at 3 and study a bull in the ring at 7 i am doing the same thing.

          just in a more sophisticated way.

          1. Hah, ok. Food can be about entertainment, but it's primarily about survival: if didn't eat, we wouldn't be alive to enjoy it. Of course, you could argue that I should perhaps go out and kill myself in order to prevent harm coming to those animals that are harmed through my diet, but that action would cause harm to others too: my friends and family. Furthermore, as I previously stated:

            "killing an animal is not necessarily worse than inflicting suffering on it. It could be argued that killing an animal for food, if done painlessly and immediately, is preferable to torturing one and keeping it alive."

            In the case of obtaining food, even meat-eaters can choose to eat animals that have been kept in high-welfare conditions, and that do not suffer a great deal (if at all) upon being slaughtered (though there is no guarantee of this). Bullfighting intentionally inflicts a great deal of suffering and stress upon the animals. There are plenty of other forms of entertainment.

  7. Are there people here really defending bullfighting? People, it is 2011. If you're entertained by bullfighting then you're nothing more than a simpleton. While it is abundantly obvious that we (humans) use animals for sustenance, and always will, it is redundant maliciousness to endorse things like dog shows, horse racing, bullfighting, etc. None of these things are needed, nor do they really add anything to humanity. Please, stop using innocent animals as puppets and toys. Just because you read an old book that said humans are better than all living things on earth, it doesn't make it so. Humans are no more significant in the grand scheme of things than the flies that land on your dinner plate. Sorry to inform you. No one cares about dead Mr. Neanderthal, or Mr. Homo Erectus now, and probably the same will hold true in a few million years for us Homo Sapiens. Get over it. These are not good arguments for torturing any species of animal if you would like to call yourself a member of modern rational society of higher cognitive functioning beings. There are survival needs, and then there is just redundant suffering that is reprehensible.

    1. i think your statement that the bullfight adds nothing to humanity is false. the bullfight has inspired poetry, symphonic works, film, sculpture, painting, nobel prize winning literature and some sublime opera.

      no one cares for Mr Neandertal? i assure you i do and i hope mankind will be remembered and honored a million years hence. does that make me a simpleton? or just a humanist?

      1. I'm quite certain no homo sapien has ever wept over Mr. Neanderthal, you included. Like I said, get over it. Please explain how you "care" such as you state… I'm interested to know.

        I'm quite certain the arts have survived without ritualistic animal puppet shows, and there is plenty of reason to believe they will continue to do well without such "entertainment."

        Nobel prize winning material due to bullfighting… common. Let's not stretch things here.

        Bullfighting and the like might have some place historically and culturally, but to say animals continue to deserve it simply because you think you're more important lacks anything close to a compelling argument.

        1. Ken – i find the enigma of the Neanderthal fascinating. as a big fan of hominids in general naturally the mysterious Neanderthal is of interest. i don't understand your almost rabid disdain for extinct humans and near humans but i suppose it's just part of your seemingly wide spectrum misanthropy.

          i never wrote that the arts would not survive the bullfight only that los toros have contributed in their own small way to the richness of the human patrimony. and of course for me personally and for many many people i know the bullfight has provided incalcuble worth in terms of art, emotion and most of all beauty.

          1. "Ken – i find the enigma of the Neanderthal fascinating. as a big fan of hominids in general naturally the mysterious Neanderthal is of interest. i don’t understand your almost rabid disdain for extinct humans and near humans but i suppose it’s just part of your seemingly wide spectrum misanthropy."

            Where did I express disdain? I am just stating basic observations. Namely, that the guy on the television, neighbor, and the mailman don't appear to be too depressed about the massive extinction of our biological relatives that took place 25,000 years ago. I highly doubt you lost a single nights' rest over all of that. In fact I know you haven't, because if I haven't, then I'm most certain no one that is alive today is giving it much thought outside of some scientific curiosity.

  8. Thanks for an interesting and informative post, Jahel – I completely agree with your conclusions.

    Michelle: you may well be right that religious people are likely to take themselves to have stronger reasons to engage in such practices than people who engage in them solely for the sake of tradition. If so, they might be more likely to break the law if a ban on such practices were passed. However, if some religion included human sacrifice as part of its requirements, we would presumably not take the fervour of its adherents as a good reason to allow the practice. The same reasoning should, it seems to me, apply to animals as well, given the importance of protecting their welfare.

    If religious people could no longer engage in ritual slaughter because of coercion by the state, presumably they would have no reason to fear divine retribution, as they could expect their God to vent His wrath on the real culprits, i.e. the lawmakers, policemen, etc. As for the possibility that such a God might exist, I wouldn't worry too much about it, as the possibility of an infinitely benevolent Being demanding that some animals regularly have their throat cut, without even being stunned first, seems to stretch the idea of benevolence far beyond the bounds of credibility.

    1. Mr Erler – you've contributed a neat summation here. empowered by the assumption that animal and human life are equal you allow government to apply coersion on individuals not only in their homes and at their dining room tables but in their churches, mosques and synogogues. given the complex relationship between humans and animals this arbitrary declaration allows an intrusion into the daily lives of billions on a scale not seen since mao's china.

      you're rather smug there at the end too when you speculate on the nature of other people's faith. did it ever occur to you how this might be insulting to reasonable people of faith?

      1. Humans are animals, first of all. You have also not provided evidence that humans are more significant than flies. Just because humans created art, mathematics, etc, it doesn't mean they have more meaning or significance. It just means humans have more significance to humans.

        Trust me, earth and all other living species on it will not miss humanity when or if it vanishes, nor will the universe. You're deluded by something else if you believe otherwise. Perhaps there is an alien life form that has a genuine interest in us for selfish reasons, but probably they will find a better species on another planet.

        1. humans are decidedly not animals. the idea that they are is of recent vintage and supported by dubious semantics at best.

          humans creating art is terribly significant. if it isn't for you than i am afraid that is a reason for pity and probably not for further discussion. if it's true Ken that you pass by a work of Goya or Julien Schnaubel with the same disregard for color, pattern and order that a dog or cat would display then you are quite special – but not in good way.

          but i don't believe that Ken. which is why i can't go along with you on this one.

          1. If we're going by the biological definition relating to evolutionary lineage, then humans are animals. I presume Ken is using this definition, and you're using another.

          2. What planet do you come from? Human are not only animals but also mammals. We have all graduated from 2nd grade in this forum, I believe. Perhaps not? Anyone disagree with these statements?

            I never trivialized art, etc. I simply said you have not provided any arguments as to why humans are more significant than any other living organism.

            Remember, your position is that animals (which would include humans, strangely enough) are of less significance than humans, and so therefore you feel entitled to an animal puppet show.

            You have not provided any arguments, just disconnected ramblings.

        2. Matt – i am using a scientific definition. biological only the in the widest sense of the term. not simple classification by phylum or class which is handy a tool but far too clumsy a tool for our discussion. lets define humanity by its nature and works. there i am sure you will see vast, factual differences between human and animals and consistent undeniable similarities between animal species.

          i replied to KenD because your posts no longer feature a "reply" link. i don't even want to speculate what that might mean.

          1. "Matt – i am using a scientific definition."

            I am not sure what "science" you use, but according to the one human civilization created, humans are animals. You have not made any real differentiation between humans and mammals.

            I presume you are arguing that humans deserve an animal puppet show because they fall into the category of:
            (a) The evolutionary superior species, for the time being.
            (b) A species that has created art, science, etc.

            It doesn't appear you're explicitly giving details, however. If you chose (a) then you can no longer count yourself as separate from all the rest of the animal kingdom, can you? (b) is indeed something special. There are a lot of things many different species can do that we can't, however. (b) is more a contribution to ourselves and nothing more. Other species are not enjoying (b), and you still need to offer some compelling arguments here. I feel like I'm arguing against myself now.

          2. I believe the "reply" button disappears after a thread has become indented/replied to a certain number of times.

          1. I would say the vast majority of animals are not human, just like the vast majority of animals are not elephants.

            Still waiting for some arguments, but it seems the questions are now becoming more and more bizarre from your end.

      2. Mr./Mrs. Dally:

        No, my claim doesn't depend on the assumption that animal and human life are equal. It merely requires assuming that animals matter enough morally to deserve protection from unnecessary suffering, no matter which authority might mandate it (religious or not).

        I am just expressing my view on the matter, not launching a personal attack against you or any religious person. Disagreement does not mean insult. If you wish to stress the importance of respectful dialogue I would suggest you lead by example.

        1. Mr Erler – how then do we determine unnecessary suffering? my proposal would be letting local communities decide. how does that sound to you?

          1. Dally, if I may ammend your proposal, I'd like to suggest that in this context of bullfighting and bullrunning the determination of "unnecessary suffering" should be determined by the bulls themselves because they are the one's who are suffering. Let them determine whether or not their suffering serves their best interest.

            Do you agree on this? If not, then who has the right to decide for the bulls on whether or not their suffering is necessary? Please give cogent reasons why humans should be allowed to decide whether or not bulls should suffer so that human can have tradition, arts, etcetera etcetera.

          2. Dally, if I may amend your proposal, I'd like to suggest that in this context of bullfighting and bullrunning the determination of "unnecessary suffering" should be determined by the bulls themselves because they are the one's who are suffering. Let them determine whether or not their suffering serves their best interest.

            Do you agree on this? If not, then who has the right to decide for the bulls on whether or not their suffering is necessary? Please give cogent reasons why humans should be allowed to decide whether or not bulls should suffer so that human can have tradition, arts, etcetera etcetera.

    2. Michelle Hutchinson

      Thanks Alex. I definitely take your point that even if we want to allow for the possibility of the existence of God, it seems far less necessary to allow for the possibility of a God who is omnibenevolent and yet insists on us causing animals to suffer.
      With regard to what the fervour of the people involved could justify, I think maybe the case is a little more scalar than you portray – as you say, we would not take religious fervour as a reason for allowing human sacrifice. If almost everyone subscribed to a religion which thought that the only way for everyone to be able to go to heaven was for one person to be sacrificed, maybe that would be allowable – diverting the misery of billions of people by the sacrifice of one? If it is a case of weighing up the harms in this way, current religious fervour might justify current religious practices, if we thought that harm to animals was of much less moral worth than harm to humans. I don't believe the latter to be the case at all, but maybe the fact that it is scalar rather than binary makes the laws allowing certain slaughter methods a little less bad than those allowing bullrunning.

  9. I am amazed by the sentence "They [bulls used in bullrunning] might live longer than the bulls that are used in bullfighting but they certainly have a worse life.". What is a "worse life", either for an animal or for a human being? How can be judged or, for that matter, measured, when a applied to a bull, which life is better or which life is worse? Life considered as a whole, or just the post-bullfighting/post-bullrunning life? I find the argument quite confusing, Jahel. Both the "worse" and the "certainly" are, "perhaps", misleading.

  10. I am amazed by the sentence "They [bulls used in bullrunning] might live longer than the bulls that are used in bullfighting but they certainly have a worse life.". What is a "worse life", either for an animal or for a human being? How can be judged or, for that matter, measured, when a applied to a bull, which life is better or which life is worse? Life considered as a whole, or just the post-bullfighting/post-bullrunning life? I find the argument quite confusing, Jahel. Both the "worse" and the "certainly" are, "perhaps", misleading. I think there's not much room for certainty here.

    1. It is not necessary to solve the mystery of interpersonal – in these case interanimal- comparisons of welfare to maintain that bullrunning bulls have a worse life compared to the ones used in bullfighting.

      Bulls used for bullfighting are allowed to roam freely for several years and they are well fed. It is very important to keep them healthy and they don’t suffer violence until they are killed.

      Let’s assume that bullrunning bulls are raised in the same way. The difference is that they are forced to participate in these events several times a year and they last several days. They are transported from one place to another in trucks – in which they can hardly move- and abused on a regular basis. I think that makes their life quite worse.

      1. Dangerous generalizations are at stake here. Not every bullfighting bull is allowed to roam 'freely' (i.e. behind wire fences) for several years, and not every bullrunning bull is forced to participate in local feasts several times a year (where do they stay before being taken to the first public show? Also behind wire fences, I presume, exactly as their bullfighting mates). Incidentally, many other animals are transported in trucks in which they can hardly move, as you often see in every highway. Unfortunately this not a privilege of their own. Only one generalization is possible here, I think – every bullfighting bull wll be violently killed in the ring. No one survives the sword. Which life is worse?

        Let's try to illustrate the point with a human example. A Jewish man is transported like cattle to several camps, where he lives several years under the most miserable circumstances, starving and being mocked and abused by camp officials. By a stroke of luck though he survives the Holocaust, and he can live a decent life after 1945. Another Jew is taken straight from his home (where he was able to roam freely and eat well) to Auschwitz, where he dies at the gas chambers the day after. Whose life is 'worse'?

        Better vs. Worse, as applied to life, either human or animal, are very tricky moral categorizations. I think you are still missing the main point of the bullfighting/bullrunning dichotomy.

  11. Very nice post Jahel! You ask whether our reasons to disregard tradition as proper justification for animal suffering enable us to disregard religion too as a justification for such practices. Well, I think that, in one sense, they do, and, in another sense, there is room for doubt.

    The argument goes that if tradition fails to justify, so does religion. I think it works at the level of private morality. Equal interests matter equally and, let's assume, the suffering inflicted to animals in such practices is relevantly similar to what a human being would experience under those ordeals. Being that so and if, as Alex has pointed out, we would have a reason to stop suffering inflicted to humans in the name of tradition or religion, I don't see how we can escape the conclusion that we would have a similar reason to stop suffering inflicted to animals.

    Now comes the doubt. Perhaps tradition and religion can play different justificatory roles in the public sphere regarding animal suffering. I am not that confident we can hop from the claim that we have a moral reason to prevent animal suffering, not even a conclusive reason to do so, to the claim that we have a moral reason to use political coercion to ensure behaviour in accordance with it. Someone mentioned Mill's principle of harm. It seems fair enough as a limit to legitimate state coercion among members of a system of social cooperation. But what about coercing members of that system for the benefit of those who are incapable of belonging to it?

    It's easy to claim that the position of those who would reject the principle of harm on the basis that it allows for too much coercion for the sake of fellow citizens is unreasonable and shouldn't be taken into account. However, it's not clear to me that those who reject its extension to animals are being necessarily unreasonable. Perhaps they are if they ground their claims on bare tradition, yet invoking religion is an appeal to what most fundamentally matters to them.

    Is it right to coerce them in this case when they disagree for such reasons of conscience? Wasn't one of the points of liberalism to protect that, anyway? To sum up: I still have to find a conclusive argument that animal suffering matters for its own sake in political morality.

    This is all theoretical, of course. In practice, I supported the ban on bullfighting and shall support similar measures.

Comments are closed.