Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is All Animal Suffering Equal?

Too cruel? A bull and Spanish bullfighter in the Santamaria plaza.
(Photo: Fernando Vergara)
The Colombian government has proposed a law prohibiting bullfighting and related activities in Colombia. That would be a big blow to bullfighters and aficionados, since Colombia is the third-biggest bullfighting country, after Spain and Mexico.

But bullfighting is a throwback to an era of bloodsports such as bear baiting, and many sociologists believe that violent entertainments like these promote a more violent society. The proposed law says its goal is to 'strengthen cultural citizenship for peace, respect for life and integrity of sentient beings, by eliminating bullfighting as an expression of violence and cruelty.'

A bird stands over a defeated foe in an
illegal cockfight in the United States.
Good for them. But I've never understood why animal rights advocates stop at bullfighting. What about cockfighting, which involves killing many more animals, in a more brutal fashion. And how about the many thousands of animals killed in slaughterhouses? Does anybody have an idea about how they live and die?

(Bullfighting-related violence goes beyond that between bullfighter and bull. This year bullfighting returned to Bogotá after five years, igniting huge, violent protests. The last Sunday of bullfighting, a bomb exploded on the sidewalk above the plaza, killing two police officers and injuring some 20 people. The government blamed the ELN guerrillas.)

A young man confronts police during anti-bullfighting protests early this year. 

Young men wrestle a small bull in a corraleja.
(Photo: Vice)
The law's sponsor, interior minister Juan Fernando Cristo, also says that bullfighting "gravely damages children...by increasing aggressiveness, anxiety and emotional impacts."

But if that is the law's authors' concern, then why don't they just prohibit children from attending bullfights? And how about protecting kids from all the violence in movies, television and video games?

Bullfighting gets picked on because it's conspicuous and associated with the wealthy and the landowning class. But of the various ways in which Colombians mistreat animals, it seems like one of the most minor. Banning bullfighting may very well be a good thing, but it's only a first step in protecting animals from abuse.

An afterthought: Bogotá's La Santamaria Plaza is a handsome building, located in the center of the city, with seating capacity for more than 30,000 people. Whether bullfighting returns to there or not, the building should be used for other events, such as concerts, art exhibitions and the like. Instead, it's sat empty for the past years.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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