Bullfighting: An Atrocity, Not a Sport

In a typical bullfight, the bull enters an arena and is approached by men on blindfolded horses who drive lances into his back and neck, which impairs his ability to lift his head. Then, more men enter on foot and proceed to distract the bull and dart around him while plunging banderillas – bright sticks with harpoon points on their ends – into his back. When the bull has become weakened from blood loss, finally, the matador appears and, after provoking a few exhausted charges from the dying animal, tries to kill the bull with his sword. If he misses, succeeding only in further mutilating the animal, an executioner is called in to stab the exhausted animal to death.

The dagger is supposed to cut the animal’s spinal cord, but even this cruel stroke can be botched, leaving the bull conscious but paralysed as he is chained by his horns and dragged out of the arena. If the crowd is happy with the matador, the bull’s ears and tail are cut off and presented as a trophy.

Every year, more than 40,000 animals are massacred in this way in Spain’s bullrings, as part of a barbaric tradition that has no place in the modern world.

Bull lying bleeding after bullfight© Lisa Markulla

An Unfair Fight

Before bullfights, bulls are often deliberately weakened and never escape with their lives. It’s apt to describe bullfighting as a “sport” for cowards. Bulls sometimes have their horns shaved down in order to disorient them, sandbags dropped on their backs and petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to blur their vision. The maimed, bewildered animal doesn’t stand a chance against the sword-wielding matador, who will try to kill him slowly, prolonging his torment in order to create more of a “spectacle”.

Running of the Bulls

During the annual “running of the bulls” in Pamplona, frightened animals are chased through the streets by a terrifying mob. The bulls are kept in crowded, dark enclosures, and when they are prodded onto the streets with electric shocks, they are momentarily blinded by the sunlight. Runners hit the animals with rolled-up newspapers and twist their tails. The panicked animals often lose their footing on corners and crash into walls, breaking bones and otherwise injuring themselves. Most tourists don’t realise that all the bulls who slip and slide down the narrow streets of Pamplona will later be killed in the bullring.

PETA demo in Pamplona

Growing Opposition

Since 2002, PETA has been teaming up with Spanish animal rights groups to stage eye-catching protests in Pamplona, with hundreds of activists baring all to draw attention to the vicious cruelty of the bull run and subsequent bullfights. These feisty activists are not alone in their distaste for tormenting bulls: in 2010, the Catalan Parliament made the landmark decision to ban bullfighting in the region, and many other Spanish and French towns are implementing bans of their own. According to a Gallop survey, 76 per cent of Spaniards have no interest in bullfights – recognising that, while Spain has many cultural traditions to be proud of, bullfighting is certainly not one of them.

What You Can Do

  • If you’re visiting Spain or another region where bullfighting takes place, don’t visit a bullfight. Tourism is one of the industry’s main excuses for carrying on with this abhorrent tradition. Even though most visitors who witness the cruelty of a bullfight never, ever want to see one again, by that time, the money has been paid and the damage done.
  • Contact the city authorities and tourist boards of cities where bullfighting takes place to tell them that bullfighting is wrong, and inform them that you will be unlikely to visit as long as they continue to support it.
  • Visit our Action Centre to see current action alerts about bullfighting


  • Each year, approximately 250,000 bulls are killed in bullfights around the world.
  • Bullfights could not continue without public subsidies paid by taxpayers. The European bullfighting industry receives an estimated 600 million Euros a year in public funding.
  • Bullfighting is banned in Catalonia and the Canary Islands but is still legal in most other parts of Spain, as well as in Portugal and some South American countries It is also legal in parts of southern France.
  • People have been speaking out against bullfighting for almost five hundred years: in 1567, Pope Pius V called for an end to the cruel and un-Christian sport.
  • Horses are also victims of bullfighting. Around 200 die each year after being gored by terrified bulls.