It’s an emotive subject. Hate it or love it, everybody’s got an opinion about it.
The general stereotype given out by the Brits about the Spanish is that Spaniards don’t care about animals. Urban myths and real stories have combined in the public imagination and generated a belief that all Spaniards will either eat, work to death, kill for fun or ignore animals. Possibly, for the “Older” generation, this might be true.
To a Spaniard, an animal can be cute, it can be fluffy, it can be loved, but rarely if ever is it anthromorphised. After all, there are quite a few animal protection charities run and staffed by Spanish volunteers that work very hard, very quietly, to improve conditions for animals and pets. We Brits just don’t tend to hear much about them, because they don’t advertise to us. Instead, they work within the confines of local authorities, local police forces and government vets. The very idea of setting up a bunch of self righteous moral guardians with quasi police powers to interfere with pet owners at their discretion, such as we have in the UK, leaves a Spaniard baffled.
While even the hardest nosed shepard may quietly, once sure nobody is around, let a single tear drop when his favorite dog is put to sleep, they are always very aware of the basic differences between a human and an animal. Which is why so many people, usually from the lower classes or older generations, have no qualms about abandoning unwanted animals. “It came from the campo, it’s returned to the campo” is the thought. But even there you occasionally see a touch of humanity – “we’ll dump it next to those English, they’ll look after it”. And people who just hurt animals for the heck of it are missing something in any culture, although possibly the general atmosphere of the local attitude towards animals allows freer rein to this impulse.
But I was talking about bullfighting. Tauromaquia as the Spanish call it. The art of combat with the bull, the very pinnacle of raw, male, macho, human emotion, fury and strength.
Which is why bull fighting is still in vogue; it’s a spectacle, it’s human vs raw nature, it’s a sociable day out, where you communicate with base nature of humanity, followed by a large dinner with friends and family where you communicate with the sociable side of humanity. Bull fighting isn’t something a Spaniard goes to then goes home; it’s a social event, and a reaffirmation of oneself as human and different from the natural world. It’s a reaffirmation that you are not animal, a demonstration of the superiority of the human race, and a reminder that, upon occasions, the animal world wins if the humans get cocky. A lesson we could all do with learning as we face the uncertain future of a warming world.
It doesn’t compare with football, or rugby, or hockey. It taps into a different side of the human psyche. It is not human vs human, it is humanity versus nature. It harks back to a previous chapter of social development, when life was harder, when man lived closer to nature and nature was in our daily lives.
Which is why younger Spanish, of a more humane, civilised European nature, are turning away from this display of raw human emotion. They haven’t lived in the ways their forefathers did, often the only animals they will ever see will be loved pets or in a zoo, much as most of the inhabitants of Britain do.
This is why Spain will not ban bullfighting; they know that within another generation or so it will die a natural death from lack of spectators, but those who enjoy it will continue for they are unable to understand why los guiris hate it so. And to ban it would be to ban part of themselves, and ensure the future of the sport. And that is what those jackbooted fascists who insisted upon banning fox hunting failed to understand – that by banning it, they gave it a whole new lease of life.