In the bullring picadors and banderilleros jab the bull's neck and shoulder with lances to goad and weaken it. According to Ernest Hemingway (in Death in the Afternoon) the bull is killed within 15 minutes of entering the ring and since the wounds are received in "hot blood" they cannot hurt much. To those who are not aficionados (as in PETA's Help Us To End Bullfighting Campaign): "Bullfighting is a cruel, abhorrent blood sport ....We need .... to stop the torment, mutilation and death of these magnificent animals".
For the sake of argument let us go with PETA's assessment. Bullfights - and all bloodsports - are barbaric, depraved and brutal. And then compare the lives of the animals used for sport with those that are reared for food.
Fighting bulls are selected for their aggressive spirit. Like racehorses bred for the track they are highly prized and their welfare is paramount. Calves spend their first year with their mothers. In their second year young bulls are assessed to see whether they are suitable for the ring or good for breeding: if neither, they are slaughtered for meat. Those selected to fight go into the ring when they are four to six years old. Until that time they will have led a natural life roaming freely on expansive ranches.
Beef cattle, on the other hand, are bred and reared purely for meat. Since only a very small proportion are kept for breeding nearly all bull calves are castrated in their first week by crushing their spermatic chords with a pliers-like instrument (called a Burdizzo). Castration makes for less aggressive animals and better meat. Male lambs are castrated in a similar way. Piglets (though not usually in the UK and Ireland since they are slaughtered before they mature) are castrated using a knife. Researchers have recorded their screams reaching 1000Hz (hertz) at the first cut, rising to 2000Hz on the second. Some vomit during the operation. A week afterwards some still slide on their hindquarters.
Prime beef cattle are reared in much the same way as fighting bulls. Mothers suckle their young and they live outside on pasture in a natural environment. But, since cows only continue to lactate if they give birth to a calf every year, half the calves for the meat industry originate from dairy farms. After their first few days they are removed from their mothers. Many are kept in intensive indoor systems for either part or all of their lives.
Other farm animals also suffer painful mutilations. The tails of lambs and piglets are docked. Piglets' teeth are clipped or filed. The growing point of calves' horns are burnt out with caustic soda. Rings are fitted in bulls' - and some pigs' - noses. Ears are tagged. Poultry are often 'de-beaked'. Day old chicks might be 'dubbed' (their combs cut off - though usually only, in countries that have very cold climates, to prevent frostbite). Turkey chicks might be 'de-snooded' (snoods, or wattles, are the red fleshy lobes that hang from the heads and upper beaks of male turkeys).
Since the number of animals dealt with is so large there is no time for any kind of anaesthetic. But all these procedures become necessary when animals are crammed together as, stressed by their lack of freedom, they tend to turn on each other. Mutilations (as they are called in the trade) help reduce mortalities from injuries.
The last day in the life of a hunted animal might involve hours of terror. In contrast the lives of intensively farmed animals are spent in conditions of remorseless cruelty from the day they are born until the day they are slaughtered. Caged or penned in massive sheds. Mutilated and motherless. They never feel the earth beneath their feet. Or the sun on their backs. Or sense the passing of the seasons. And their deaths - having been rounded up, transported for hours, kept waiting at the abattoir with all its noise and stench, and surely sensing what is going to happen to them - must be more protracted and terrible than the deaths of animals used for sport.
In Europe 40,000 bulls are killed in fights each year; the global figure is 250,000. Before the hunting ban in the UK 25,000 foxes were killed by hunts every year (and 75,000 shot as vermin). 15 million pheasants are shot for sport. About 3 million cattle a year are slaughtered for beef or veal. Pigs number 13 million. Sheep and lambs 19 million. Poultry 800 million.
It seems that the main objection to blood sports is that the killing is for all to see. Otherwise how can it be that killing for sport causes such a furore and the plight of mass-produced animals creates hardly a ripple?
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