Bullfighting versus Animal Welfare

JE Zaldívar1, W Sánchez-Suárez 1, 2, M Ibáñez1, 3, V Iniesta1, 4, R Luna1, A I Marín1, R Sáez1, E Vicente1 y M Gallego1

1 Veterinary Association for the Abolition of Bullfighting (AVAT), Spain
2 Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Canada
3 Clinical Ethology Service, Animal Psychiatry, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain
4Department of Animal Health, University of Extremadura, Spain

Bullfighting is a public traditional spectacle in Spain, Portugal, southern France, some Latin American countries, and the Philippines that involves intense animal suffering. Its Spanish version typically finishes once the bull dies in the bullring after a long agony. Bullfighting is divided into three parts: tercio de varas (the “third of lancing”), tercio de banderillas (the “third of banderillas”) and tercio de muerte (the “third of death”). In the “third of lancing”, the neck of the bull – close to the withers area – is punctured several times with a very sharped metallic weapon, producing damages in muscles, tendons, ligaments, veins, arteries, nerves and bone structures. At this point, animals lose around 8-18% of their blood volume. In the “third of banderillas” six harpoons are planted into the shoulders of the bull, increasing the pain already inflicted, sectioning the muscles and causing more loss of blood. In “the third of death”, bulls are killed after some passes with a small red cape or “muleta”. The bullfighter introduces then an 80-88 cm length sword in the chest of the bull in order to destroy all anatomical structures that it finds in its pathway: bronchi, lungs and large blood vessels, causing profuse bleeding in the thoracic cavity and, therefore, a slow asphyxia. Sometimes the sword even pierces the diaphragm and cuts the liver and stomach. Afterwards, if the animal’s death is delayed the bullfighter uses another sword called “verduguillo”, which is introduced between the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae with the aim of severing the spinal cord and / or part of the brainstem. As a consequence, the bull suffers from quadriplegia and, therefore, is unable to move. Next, the bullfighter’s assistant stabs a 10 cm knife blade into the occipitoatlantal space, slicing the medulla oblongata and producing a slow stop of cardiac and breathing functions, and brain disconnection. Besides the anatomical damages described, postmortem studies show over 32 altered blood parameters and a serious metabolic acidosis. These pathological states are caused by the considerable amount of lactate deposited in the bulls’ organs and cells, as a consequence of these herbivores’ inability to cope with the strenuous exercise they are forced to undergo. As veterinarians we consider that this type of shows clearly violate the minimum animal welfare standards, and represent one of the most terrible expressions of animal abuse.