Bullfights in….California?

One of the most vexing problems that animal advocates face is fighting animal cruelty that is justified by reference to religious traditions. David has written about the problem here. A not so well known instance where there is a clash between religion and cruelty is in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the hot summer nights give way to a spectacle that many Americans don’t know takes place in their country: bullfighting. The fights are organized mainly by a community of Portuguese immigrants who claim that the bullfights are an integral part of their religious and cultural tradition. Why can such a cruel spectacle be conducted lawfully in California? Because the San Joaquín bullfights are bloodless! How can a bullfight be bloodless? The L.A. Times explains:

In 1957, California banned gory bullfights but did allow supporters — mostly Portuguese dairy farmers from the Azores, where the sport is popular and bloodless — to continue the tradition as long as the bull isn’t harmed or killed, and contests were staged in conjunction with religious festivals.

The Velcro adaptation – a bandarilha tipped not with razor-sharp darts but with nonlethal Velcro – was introduced in 1980 by Dennis Borba, an American-born matadorwhose father, Frank, was one of a few pioneering immigrants to revive the old-world spectacle in the 1960s.

Recently, animal advocates claimed that at least some bullfights are not really bloodless, as some 30 barbed banderillas were found at a bullfight in Los Angeles County. Harming bulls with real banderillas is, of course, unacceptable. Assuming, however, that the Velcro version of the banderilla is used, should the spectacle be banned anyway? Why or why not?

Luis Chiesa

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