The coronavirus isn’t just affecting businesses but also important cultural events. Spain’s bullfighting tradition has been the subject of some bad luck including relentless persecution on the part of animal rights hoodlums and their political allies. Now, according to The New York Times, COVID-19 could be bullfighting’s nail in the coffin.
Bullfighting, Already Ailing in Spain, Is Battered by Lockdown
A storied tradition has been weakened by animal rights concerns. With the pandemic halting bullfights, breeders and others face hard choices.
By Rafael Minder, June 21, 2020 – The New York Times
ALMADÉN DE LA PLATA, Spain — Extremeño, an imposing black bull who weighs more than half a ton, was set to fight to death next month in the neoclassical ring of the Spanish city of Valencia.
Instead, the coronavirus gave four-year-old Extremeño an unexpected lease on life. Valencia’s fiesta was called off, along with the bulk of a Spanish bullfighting season that normally runs from March to October.
Although Spain ended its Covid-19 state of emergency on Sunday, bull breeders and matadors are continuing to lock horns with a left-wing Spanish government that they accuse of wanting to use the epidemic as an accelerator for bullfighting’s permanent removal, in line with the wishes of animal rights activists.
“I find it deplorable that the fiesta of the Spanish people has become so politicized,” said Aurora Algarra, who owns Extremeño and is among the few women to run a bull farm, which she took over after her father died in 2006. “We now find ourselves under tremendous attack from Spain’s government, but at least this crisis has united us in the face of adversity in a way that I had not seen before.”
Ms. Algarra had been preparing to send 70 bulls this year to fight in the rings of Spain and southern France. Instead, the coronavirus lockdown had led her to send 30 of them to the slaughterhouse. She is earning about 400 euros, or $450, for each animal’s meat. That is only one-tenth of the cost of its upkeep during the four years in which a bull roams her nearly 2,000 acres of land in the empty countryside of Andalusia, the southern and largest region of Spain.
For now, Ms. Algarra is keeping Extremeño and her other bulls, while hoping bullfighting can restart soon. A breeder can earn thousands of euros by providing six bulls for a traditional fight, or corrida, with the world-famous Pamplona festival paying as much as €15,000 for each animal, Ms. Algarra said.
The Pamplona festival, famed because its bulls also run the city’s streets, was among the main events that were scrapped shortly after Spain declared its state of emergency in mid-March.
In recent years, bullfighting has not only been caught in strong political and economic crosswinds in Spain, it has also increasingly found itself denounced by activists who see it as publicly torturing animals.
During a corrida, the matador skillfully draws the bull toward him, at the risk of getting gored. At the end of a fight, the matador usually plunges his sword deep between the bull’s shoulders; then the dead animal is dragged from the ring. In some rare instances, the public spares a bull’s life by asking for it to be “pardoned” for its bravery.
In 2013, after the global financial crisis also significantly hurt the bullfighting sector, the conservative government at the time came to its defense by declaring bullfighting part of Spain’s cultural patrimony. This declaration was also a response to the growing separatist movement in Catalonia, whose regional Parliament voted to ban bullfighting in 2010.
Idled by the coronavirus, several leading matadors have recently waded more vigorously into Spain’s debate over bullfighting, both on social media and on the streets.
“We now have a government in Spain that sees the coronavirus as an opportunity to remove bullfighting altogether,” said Andrés Roca Rey, a Peruvian matador who joined a demonstration in Seville on June 13, when defenders of bullfighting rallied in several Spanish cities.
PHOTOCREDIT: By Photochrom Print Collection – Library of CongressCatalog: http://lccn.loc.gov/2001699358, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33070396