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The myth of the good life of the bull


Stierengevecht © CAS International

It is often stated that, in Spain, the fighting bull has the life of a king. The general idea is that animals only suffer in the bullring during the bullfight or in cruel festivities with animals. This idea, however, is not realistic. Here you can discover the truth about the suffering of bulls and cows during their lives in the bullfighting sector.

The first year of life
The first time we can speak of animal suffering in the life of the bull is a few days after his birth. At this point, the calf is separated from his mother. The breeders rush mother and calf from horseback or with a tractor. This is a very stressful experience. When the calf is captured, he gets an earmark, without any anesthesia and often done with a scissor or knife.

When the calf has an age of 7 to 11 months, it will get four brands. This is a very painful and stressful process and the animal will be immobilized. The calf suffers a brand of the breeder, of the association of breeders, an identification number and the date of birth.

Process of selection
When the bulls and cows reach the age of 2 to 3 years old, they will be tested during the ‘tientas’. During these tests the character and the ‘bravery’ of the animal will be measured. The animal will undergo different tests. During one of these tests the animal will be stabbed 4 times with a long lance by a man on horseback. This type of tests is meant to determine which animals will be used for breeding.


When a cow is disqualified for such a test, several things can happen. For one, the cow is brought to the slaughterhouse. The breeder will transport as many cows as possible at the same time to the slaughterhouse due to the costs. However, only a few cows will undergo such tests in one day. This means that wounded cows will have to wait for days before they are killed. These cows are not treated by a veterinary, because they have been disqualified and are of no more use for the breeder. Veterinaries in the slaughterhouses have documented cows with big, infected wounds after the ‘tientas’.

Usually, 10% of the cows is disqualified. In case the cow is disqualified, but still ‘good enough’ to earn some money with, it will be sold for a cruel festival with animals. Spain has a huge diversity of types of festivals with animals. In some festivals the animals are killed, in others they are not. Sometimes maltreatment is part of the festivity. In all cases the cows will suffer a lot of stress. Some cows will be used several times, and will be brought to the slaughterhouse only when they are exhausted.


Bulls that are not used to breed will go to a bullfight, a festivity with bulls or directly to the slaughterhouse, depending on its use for the bullfighting sector. Bulls are differently tested than cows.

Feest met stieren A festival with bulls in Mexico © MANT

Bulls as practice material
A part of the bulls that grow up in a breeding farm will be used as practice material in bullfighting schools. Bulls are also used by bullfighters to practice with. Bulls from all age categories are used and killed to train a bullfighter. It is unknown how many bulls annually die during trainings, but probably thousands.


A bullfighting lover is allowed to go to a breeding farm to fight a young bull himself. He pays and he may kill the bull as he wishes. In Spain, this is permitted by law.

Transport
The transport from a breeding farm to a bullfight or festival with bulls is an important source of stress for the animal. The travel time of transports vary, in Spain it can be 8 to 10 hours. From Spain bulls are transported to other countries as well, even by plane to Latin America. In this type of travel, it may take days before the bull is allowed to leave the transportation pen.

Fighting bulls are group animals, but they cannot be transported in the same pen because they might hurt each other. They travel isolated from the group in small rooms. During transportation, the bull can lose more than 50 kg of weight.

Bullfight
When the bull is selected for a public bullfight, it will be isolated from the group to gain weight. Bulls are group animals and they want to be together with companions of the same species by nature. The isolation is a stressful process for the animal.


Part of the horn will be sawed off close to the date of the bullfight. This is very stressful too. The horns are used by the bull as a means of reference to measure the distance to a certain point. When part of the horn is removed, the bull is unable to make this measurement and will need time to adjust. This is of course an advantage to the bullfighter. It is obligatory by law to remove part of the horns when the bulls are used for festivals with animals.

All cows and bulls that grow up in a breeding farm for the bullfighting sector will suffer several moments of stress, fear and pain. Only a tiny part of all the animals that originate in a breeding farm will actually die in the bullring, at an age of 4 or 5 years old. Many animals are brought to the slaughterhouse, of are used time and time again in festivities to entertain people. Other animals will suffer in the bullfighting schools where pupils without experience will practice on them. And in case a bull will be used for a bullfight, he undergoes several heavy tests first. And the worst part is yet to come: a 20 minutes long torture in a fight which outcome has been determined before he was even born.

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