Bullfighting: Sport or Art?

A matador and bull
Photo by Arild Andersen via Flickr

Ruby Jones and Adam Navis look at the sport of bullfighting. Is it a test of courage and skill? Or just the meaningless killing of animals?

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Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Ruby Jones.

Voice 2

And I'm Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

A man stands in a round, dirt area. Thousands of people are watching him. Many shout his name. Then a gate opens and a bull, a male cow, enters the area. The bull is 1,000 pounds of power. The sharp horns on its head can pass right through a man. Its feet can break bones. Its powerful neck can throw a man into the air. The man waves a cloth in front of the bull. The bull runs at the man. The man does not move. At the last second, he turns away. The bull runs through the cloth. The crowd shouts "Olé!" But this battle between man and bull is not over yet.

Voice 2

Today's Spotlight is on bullfighting. Bullfighting is a sport where men fight a bull. This sport raises strong emotions in people. People who like it, love it. People who do not like it, hate it. The men who fight the bulls can become heroes. Or they can lose their lives.

Voice 1

Bullfighting is linked to Spain. In some form, people have been bullfighting there for 1300 years. However, modern bullfighting began in the year 1133. Instead of riding on horses, bullfighters began to walk around the bull. These men, called matadors, became the symbol of modern bullfighting. Today, bullfighting shows the courage, the power, and the character of both man and animal.

Voice 2

A bullfight is three complex acts between several men and a bull. The first part begins when the matador enters the arena. He wears colourful clothes and carries a cape, a large piece of gold cloth.

Voice 1

Then the bull is released into the area. The matador waves the cloth toward the bull. The bull runs toward the matador. The matador is as still as a statue. The matador is considered skilled if he lets the bull's horns pass close to his body. He will even turn his back on the animal. This shows that he is master of both the animal and his own fears.

Voice 2

The second part involves another man, called a picador. He rides on a horse. The horse wears special clothing to protect it. The bull now runs into the horse and throws it to the ground. While the bull is attacking the horse, the picador stabs a sharp stick into the bull's neck. This makes it more difficult for the bull to lift its head.

Voice 1

However, the bull is still very strong. Next, two men, called banderilleros let the bull run toward them. They hold two sharp sticks, one in each hand. At the last moment they move out of the way. They stab the sticks into the bull at the same place the picador hit. The bull is becoming weaker.

Voice 2

In the final round the matador again enters the area. He carries a red cloth and a sword. Again the bull runs toward him. He lets the bull get closer and closer to his body. The matador holds the sword. This time he will not step out of the way. He must place his body directly between the bull's horns. He reaches over the bull's head and the sword enters the bull between the shoulders. This must be exactly right. The sword must go through the bull's heart.

Voice 1

Through the fight, the crowd will cheer a good matador. But they will also cheer a good bull. Sometimes, if a bull has fought well, the public may ask that the bull's life be saved. However, most of the time, this does not happen.

Voice 2

Who would want to fight a 1,000 pound bull? Matadors are treated like any other sport stars. They have money, followers, and newspapers report on them. But many matadors do not do it for any of these reasons. In fact, most matadors begin training at a young age. Matador Uceda Leal says:

Voice 3

"I was 12 when I fought my first bullfight in public. It made a deep mark on me. I knew when I faced the bull that this was my job. I began to understand what a person needs to master the art of bullfighting. I spent my whole youth doing this. I could not do what the other young people my age were doing. I had to sacrifice, in order to train. But it did not matter."

Voice 1

For matadors, killing a bull is about more than death. It is about courage and control. In a meeting with writer Martin Schneider, bullfighter Eduardo Dávila Miura says:

Voice 4

"I am an artist. But unlike a painter or a writer, I only have one chance. The only aim of a bullfighter is the death of the bull. For that, every matador puts his life in danger. A matador never thinks about his own death."

Voice 2

Like Davila Miura, many people believe that bullfighting is not a sport, but a kind of art. However, other people believe that bullfighting is not a sport, or art, but just the meaningless killing of an innocent animal.

Voice 1

In most parts of the world, bullfighting is illegal. One reason is because bullfighting is full of blood. And seeing a lot of blood makes people uncomfortable. People think that bullfighting is meaningless. It causes innocent animals to suffer and die.

Voice 2

Animal rights groups estimate that in the country of Spain, 30,000 are killed each year. Other people argue that the risk to human life is not worth it. Most matadors have been seriously injured by a bull. In 2007, a young bullfighter was lifted into the air by a bull. One of the bull's horns was sticking into his chest.

Voice 1

When people are not part of a culture it can be difficult to understand it. Bullfighting is part of Spanish culture and history. People who want to ban bullfighting have good reasons to do so. And many of these people are Spanish people. However, when you listen to matadors talk, it is clear they care a great deal about the life and death of the bulls they fight. Eduardo Dávila Miura thinks that most people do not want to understand bullfighting. He says:

Voice 4

"There are different kinds of bulls and you have to fight in a different way with each one. As a matador you have a deep connection with the bulls. That is what most people do not want to understand."

Voice 2

What do you think about bullfighting? Is it a test of courage and skill? Or is it just the meaningless killing of animals? Should it be banned or celebrated? You can write a comment on our website at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called "Bullfighting: Sport or Art?"

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this program was Adam Navis. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Thank you for listening. Goodbye!

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Have you ever seen a bullfight? What do you think of this sport?


Daniel Avila's avatar
Daniel Avila
said on September 22, 2009

fighting a bull is dangerous, if it is a part of the spanish culture there is nothing we can say against it, but i still concern about the bloody spectacle people see, witnessing such a sport or art may have something to do with the roman circus of the first century?... does not seem right to me, but maybe because i belong to a different culture… however, moral issues about death and life must be remarked.

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said on October 19, 2010

it is horrible in any case…

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said on October 21, 2010

The bullfighting isn’t sport either art, it’s meaningless do suffer and kill hundreds or thousands of inocent animals in front of crowds.
I believe that should ban this kind event than doesn’t help anybody.
Is better to give food to many people with hungry and others needs on the streets of the poor countries.

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Michel Michaeljohn
said on March 17, 2011

Bullfighting: The most ‘indefensible’ type of ‘animal abuse.’
Bullfighting is not a ‘fight’ at all, but a systematic ‘torture-killing’ that pits a gang of armed thugs wielding ‘razor-sharp’ barbed spikes, spears, swords and daggers (these weapons are designed to ‘inflict intense pain and cause blood loss’ to weaken the animal) against a lone, terrified; confused; ‘fatally’ disabled and wounded animal.

It’s a ‘sickening’ economic industry based on HORRIFYING victimization; sadistic abuse; extreme cruelty and ‘mutilation and torture’ of bulls (and horses) during the cruel exhibitions of ‘bullfights’ (which are ‘blood’ fiestas): “GRAPHIC - Bullfighting Cruelty and Cowardice Exposed”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3WvFaG2j8E

Handlers weaken the bull for days before the bullfight. They put laxatives in his food and heavy sandbags on his back. They file his horns down to the tender quick; they blind and drug him; they stuff his ears so that he cannot ‘hear’; they stuff his nostrils so that he cannot ‘breath’. In the ring, they drive ‘razor-sharp’ lances into his back and neck muscles so he can’t lift his head. By the time the matador appears, the bull is weak from blood loss and dizzy from being chased in circles.

The horses used in bullfights are old and drugged. Wet newspaper is stuffed in their ears and their vocal cords are cut so the audience will not hear their cries. They wear long blankets to hide their entrails, which spill out when they are ‘gored and disemboweled’ by the ‘deceived; tortured; agonizing’ bull.

It’s no fun to see an innocent, crazed animal ‘tortured’ before a screaming crowd of people, who should be hanging their heads in shame. Even if you leave after 15 to 20 minutes, the damage has been done – your money has gone to support this ‘hellish business,’ which ‘decent people’ are working to ‘end.’

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 ‘tourist dollars.’

Please help these ‘suffering’ animals – ‘STAY AWAY FROM BULLFIGHTS; speak out against them and DEMAND that they be ABOLISHED.’

Michel Michaeljohn; California; United States.

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said on October 18, 2011

In my view,bullfighting not only is not sport either art, but also it’s exactly atrocity and those who pay for it to watch an animal’s suffring,are cruel!

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said on October 18, 2011

Hi in my view, bulifighting is horrible sport game
But bulifighting is culture of Spain
So I think
bulifighting have to respect as Spain culture

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said on October 19, 2011

For me it makes no sense, in any way. Both ,matador and people that applaud, don’t deserve my respect, only my indignation.

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said on June 20, 2017

Bullfighting isn’t cool, that’s the true!! Let’s reverse the positions, how about this?

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said on June 20, 2017

I really dislike bullfighting and I feel horrible when see the bull is stabbed with a a sharp stick. what’s happen when reverse ?

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said on June 21, 2017

In my opinion, bullfighting is neither sport nor art, it is simply cruel amusement for cruel people therefore it should be forbidden despite of many year’s standing tradition. I could never applaud looking at such horrible spectable!

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said on November 22, 2018

I think bullfighting is a cultural manifestation in Spain and Spanish has the right of his own culture, likewise Brazilians have the Carnival and Germans have the October fest and so on.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on November 23, 2018

I had seen the bullfighting on TV but I do not like see it again.
The bullfighting is not a sport and not an art.
It is a violence against the animal and the human.
It is a crime.
God bless you