Friday, February 09, 2007


I was listening to NPR this morning and it was reported that some official of the government of Spain had the gall to suggest that the bull in a bullfight be allowed to leave the arena alive. (Apparently this is what is done in South America.) An end to bullfighting was NOT suggested, despite a poll that indicates that over 70% of Spaniards have no interest at all in bullfighting. However, there is a huge uproar in Spain – who has the audacity to suggest a change to this cultural rite? One young lady – a bullfighter in training – commented to the effect that it had been wrong of Spain to impose its cultural values on the new world during its colonization, so it is wrong for the world to impose its cultural values on Spain.

Now I expect that my reaction to this story was probably the same as most people – that bullfighting is a barbaric custom that is an affront to modern cultural values, is cruel to the bulls and it is about time that bullfighting is stopped. Another of the people interviewed in Spain made the observation that these bulls are treated better than cattle are here and have a relatively quick and painless death at the hands of an expert toreador. I have not been to a bullfight and cannot speak from any direct knowledge, but how can a bull’s death be relatively quick and painless when it is continually stabbed and bled, it is run until it is too tired to escape and the toreador can deliver the coup de gras. Seems to me that it would be painful to be continually stabbed by the picadors and the toreador.

Aside from ending bullfighting I also have an aversion to hunting. In this country, at least, there is no reason for people to go out to kill game to put food on the table. It is more expensive to hunt, factoring in the cost of a gun (or bow), ammunition, and the hunting license, than to buy meat in the supermarket. Ditto for fishing. This appears to be a growing sentiment as the state of Georgia felt it had to amend it's constitution to protect the right to hunt and fish. My aversion to hunting comes from the viewpoint that since it isn’t necessary, that we are killing animals for sport. Even if they are eaten – which is mostly the case – it isn’t necessary, Kroger down the road has reasonably priced meat. Hunters argue that they perform a service, thinning out the game population to the point where the game can continue to flourish. I.e. – there is an overpopulation of the game being hunted. And that is probably true, as we are continually destroying their habitat to build more subdivisions and malls, forcing the game to concentrate in smaller and smaller areas. They also argue that it is in the nature of things that we eat other (lower) animals. After all, don't lions eat gazelles, cats eat rodents, wolves eat sheep, etc? Natural.

I really LOVE a good steak. I enjoy chicken cooked in a variety of ways. In other words, I eat meat. So, how can I object to people who hunt (or bullfight) if I have no problems eating animals? In fact, I eat animals whose sole purpose in life is to be eaten by me. Hunters can argue that they are eating animals whose purpose was to live, to be part of the ecosystem, and that only a few of them wind up as food (or as heads on a wall). Which is a valid point. I mean, it is unmentionable what is done to put veal on the table, or to produce goose liver pate. With the amount of chemicals that are pumped into cows to get them to market I am surprised we haven’t grown extra limbs. Beaks of chickens are clipped and they are forced to live crammed into small cages beak-to-beak until processed for our tables.

I can’t say that I have thoroughly thought out the relationship between humans and the other animals on this planet. I tend to believe that they have as much right to survive on this planet as we do, so what gives humans the right to use animals to our benefit? We are sufficiently advanced as to be able to derive our protein from non-animal sources, so they aren’t necessary as a source of sustenance. Why is it wrong to experiment on chimpanzees if those experiments save human lives? Why is it wrong to test cosmetics on animals if it prevents harm to humans? Why is it okay for me to eat a cow who’s entire existence is dedicated to providing me with gustatory pleasure?

I can’t decide. If I follow through with the majority of my feelings regarding animals, then I should be a vegetarian. Or vegan. Why don’t I have the strength of my convictions?

How say you?

8 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

meno said...

I heard that story too. I wonder why it is considered sporting to torment a pre-wounded, frantic animal.

I eat meat. I eat meat that was organically raised. If i had to kill my own meat, i would become a vegeatrian, i was not raised on a farm, so i am not used to it.

I could still eat fish though.

Anonymous said...

Bullfighting is grotesque.

Simply, I think humans have a responsibility to treat animals with care, respect, and mercy. We need to weigh the needs of animals and their habitats more heavily than we have up until now. I see nothing wrong with eating animals, but to subject them to mistreatment in the farming process is wrong and we sorely need legislation to change it.

The scientific experimentation...I don't know enough about it, but have heard the horror stories of live rabbits being tossed into dumpsters. My gut feeling is that the benefit to humans is worth doing the experimentation, but whenever possible, the non-testing aspects of these animals' lives needs to be as humane as possible.

I know everything I'm in favor of costs more. If it came down to spending this money on the animals or directly on the welfare of human beings, I'd choose the people, but there is so much mis-spending....

Whoops, I'm tumbling off my soap box.

Mother of Invention said...

I hate the idea of bullfights, dogfights etc. and I haven't really thought about cattle raised to be on my dinner plate. It's too late for me..I'm a meat-eater who definitely likes beef, chicken, and pork. I to fish once a year but release what we don't eat and I personally don't eat fish.

Not sure what I can say about testing on animals...hey, I becames diabetic at 13, and I owe my life to banting and best and the dogs they used to test out insulin.

Thailand Gal said...

I also dislike the idea of using animals for sport. There's something rather perverse about it.

It is one thing to kill an animal for food, for survival ... yet another to kill them or watch them kill each other for the purpose of entertainment.



jen said...

bob, it's hard to do the right thing. if this speaks to you, give it a try.

aligning ourselves more closely with our consciousness is always a good thing.

Lee said...

Check out Humane Farm Animal Care. Certified Humane labeled products aren't available yet everywhere, but this organization is trying. If I had to kill my own meat, I would probably be vegetarian too. But it seems unlikely that the world is going to stop eating meat any time soon. If you're really interested, you can read my long research paper on the topic.

I feel better knowing the animals had some kind of life before feeding my belly.

urban-urchin said...

I eat meat and find bullfighting (and dog fighting and cock fighting and, and and) deplorable. As Chani said food is one thing- blood sports? NOT COOL!

Lee said...

BTW, I can't even kill spiders, the creatures I loathe and fear most in the world. Unless one is a a homophobic Hemingway, bullfighting seems like a macho sport well past it's prime. As far as deer, I live in an area where the poor things are being chased out of their forests by rampant, unchecked building of McMansions. I guess I would rather see a deer meet a clean death and be used for food than a rotting carcass on the side of the toll road after causing a multicar accident. Whole thing's a bummer. My older son likes to in a zen sort of way. He doesn't eat them, he throws them back. Prolly still scares the poop outta the poor things though.