Society for the Advancement of Animal Wellbeing

- Protecting Animals and Conserving the Environment


About cows and bulls

The cow is considered sacred in some cultures; Hindus worship the kind-natured beings as a divinities. There are approximately 920 different breeds of cow which include the more common Holstein as well as the Brown Swiss and the Ayrshire cow which originated in Scotland.

Scientific studies have shown that cows form friendships that last for a lifetime and can recognize the faces of 50 to 70 individuals. Cattle herds are highly organized and structured with a specific social hierarchy, however it is dynamic and the relationships often change over time. Cattle also lick each other, this is known as allogrooming and it provides comfort to both individuals and allows for bonding.

Cows also face in a north to south direction when grazing or resting, this arises from there ability to detect magnetic or true north no matter where they are.


The "fight" - the cruelty!

Bullfighting is nothing more than the systematic torture and eventual killing of an innocent animal. Each year 250,000 bulls face an untimely and horrible death in the ring. Bullfighting is still practiced in countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, Columbia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Guatemala and the US. Each country has its own particular method of bullfighting all of which cause untold suffering to the animal involved. 

In Spain the bullfight takes place in a circular arena. One event involves 3 bullfighters known as matadors who will kill 2 bulls each. The bull is transported to the arena in a very small cage and is then left in a dark room in total isolation; this is done to disorientate him before he is released in to the ring. When the normally gentle bull is released, the matadors’ assistants torment the animal using orange or red capes. The so-called fight is split in to three parts or “acts” and lasts for more than an hour.  

The first part involves a “picadore” which is a man mounted on a horse armed with sharp lances that are designed to inflict the most amount of pain possible.

The picadore will ride around the bull to confuse it and then stab the baffled bull in the neck muscles. This is done so that the bull can not lift its neck to fight back. The lances are twisted to cause the maximum amount of muscle and tendon damage as well as bleeding and pain. The bewildered bulls scream out in agony but he is helpless against the picadore.

It is not only the bull that suffers in this torture but also the horse upon which picadore is mounted suffers tremendously. The horse is blindfolded and its ears are stuffed with newspaper, some horses may have their vocal chords severed. The horse is scared and confused and often sustains injuries, sometimes the horse is gorged by the bull’s horns and as a result may die, each year 200 horses die in bullfighting arenas.  


In the second part, harpoons known as banderillas are thrown in to the bull by men running around on foot. These barbed harpoons have 5 cm long spikes which cause lacerations, excruciating pain and massive blood loss. In total 6 banderillas will be lunged in to the bull’s body.

The purpose is to significantly weaken the animal in readiness for the third and final part. Even during this stage the bulls maybe so weak that they crawl on the ground and uncontrollably defecate out of fear. The men wielding the harpoons will then end this section of the so-called fight by running around the bull until it is completely confused and disorientated and so it has to stand still which makes it an easier target for the matador.  


In the third and final part the matador will attempt to kill the already exhausted and distressed bull by stabbing it between the shoulder blades, right through the heart. More often than not he will miss and instead the blade will go through the lungs, this causes the bull to suffocate on its own blood which spurts out from the nose and mouth.

Then a puntilla knife is used to hack through the spinal. If however the matador fails to kill the bull with his swords then he will then go on to use a secondary method, a sword with a cross piece near the tip which is used to stab the bull behind the head and sever the spinal column. Next the ears and tail of the bull will be cut off and given to the matador as a so-called “reward”.

Some bulls are not dead when this happens and so have to endure further pain as they are dragged out of the arena by a tractor or by mules and are then repeatedly stabbed.



Variations and cheating

In Portugal the bullfighting is conducted completely on horse back. Up to 3 lances known as rejounes and 6 banderillas are used to inflict pain and suffering on these disorientated and frightened animals. However before the fight the bull will have their horns ripped off or they may be painfully filed down and have balls placed on the top.

In these cruel events the kill does not happen in the arena, instead the bull is taken away and the lances and harpoons are pulled out, some are imbedded so deep that they have to be cut out along with the surrounding flesh. This process causes alot of agony and is not carried out under anesthesia. The bull may have to wait up to 2 days before being carted to the slaughter house all the while suffering in pain and distress.

In bullfighting there are a number of cheating methods used to weaken the bull before the fight so as to make the kill easier. Firstly, the bulls used are bred to be slower giving the fighters a distinct advantage. Cutting off the horns known as afeitado causes tenderness and also affects the animals ability to judge distances.

It has been recorded that 20% of all bulls are drugged; they may be given tranquilizers or fed Epsom salts. The salts causes the bulls to purge and become dehydrated the bull then drinks excessively causing it to become bloated and slow. On the other hand some bulls are starved before the cruel event so as to reduce their stamina. Weights are also tied to the bull to weaken it, petroleum is rubbed in to the eyes to obscure their vision and sometimes the animal has its kidneys beaten and bruised. Some bulls have sand bags repeatedly and deliberately dropped on their backs to injure them so they are less mobile.

Bull fiestas (festivals)

Apart from bullfights there are numerous bull fiestas in which these gentle animals are tortured and abused beyond imagination. One such fiesta is known as “Farra do Boi” and is conducted in Brazil during Easter. During this cruel event hundreds of bulls are released into towns, participants then beat and torture these animals using whips, sticks, knives and rocks.

These animals are chased through the streets and some are even chased in to the sea to drown. In other cases the bulls were drenched with gasoline and set on fire. Some animals had chili pepper thrown in to their eyes and also had their horns and tails ripped off. The animals endure this horrific torture for up to 3 days when they are finally killed and eaten by the participants.

In another bull fiesta known as “Torro de la Vega”, the gentle creatures are forced to cross over a bridge by participants taunting them with spears. On the other side of the bridge men on horse back and some on foot throw lances at the bulls. This continues for up to 3 hours until the final and fatal blow is delivered. The person who threw the fatal lance is considered to be the so-called “winner” of this brutal and bloody and activity.

“Bous embolats” or fire balls is yet another fiesta which exists in various forms. As a tournament, teams see how quickly they can set on fire a bull’s horns. Balls of black sticky tar are placed on the tips of a constrained bull and are then set a light. The panicked and extremely frightened bull is then released into the streets.

The bull runs through the streets in to walls in a futile attempt to extinguish the flames. Apart from the anxiety and distress of being set on fire the bull also suffers from the pain of the burning horns as well as severe burns to the eyes and face.

In some cases the rest of the bull’s body catches on fire and he is subsequently burnt to death.



In the Yawar fiesta a condor is tied securely to the back of a bull. The condor’s talons rip in to the bull’s flesh as the bird attempts to peck at and escape from the bull. The bull, in agony runs in to the arena bucking and kicking trying to rid its self of the tethered condor.

This is distressing and painful for both the unwilling animals involved. Eventually the bullfighters overcome the bull and kill it. The condor is usually badly injured or has died from this extremely cruel event.



Running of the Bulls

Bull running is another activity which leads to the abuse and suffering of these creatures. One such bull run occurs in Pamplona, Spain. In this run the bulls are kept imprisoned in cramped and dark cages and are usually starved. Next an electric prod is used to shock the bulls in to bolting out in to the streets. Runners will then run along side or in front of the frightened and disorientated bulls whilst hitting them with rolled up newspapers or sticks. Bulls are used to roaming around pasture lands not running along narrow cobbled streets. Therefore when the bulls run and especially when turning corners they will slip and fall and crash in to building thus sustaining broken legs, ribs and twisted ankles amongst other debilitating and painful injuries. Crowds that line up along the street to watch the spectacle sometimes fire laser pointers in to the eyes of the bull to try and blind them. Hurt, injured and scared they run in to the ring where they will face the lances, harpoons and swords of the bullfighter. In other bull runs participants have stabbed and even castrated animals on the street.

Even baby calves are used in some bullfights in which the spectators are invited to come down and participate by stabbing the infant animal. In one of the French bullfights known as “Course Laudese", female cows are used instead of bulls and teams compete against one another. It must be noted that most people in Spain consider bullfighting cruel and think it is a national shame. This barbarism has no place in society and serves no other purpose except that of causing extreme grief, pain and suffering both mental and psychological to the innocent animals.


To stop these atrocious acts do not attend a bullfight or partake in bull fiestas. Also do not use tour operators or visit towns that support bullfighting. These steps are important as tourism is the main income for bullfighting rings.

You can also write letters to the tourism board of the country involved or to the relevant ambassador telling them how you feel about this savagery. Spreading awareness of the issues regarding bullfighting to friends and family is also important. You can also sign on-line petitions which seek an out right ban such as the one on the World Society for the Protection of Animals’ website

To find out what else you can do please visit the How You Can Help section or read more the animal issues.


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