Knowing that I used to follow the bulls, an associate sent me an article calling for making bullfighting illegal. It’s a campaign run by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). I agree that killing bulls as a spectacle to entertain a public audience cannot be morally justified. I address this issue briefly in a story about my first formal corrida in Xochimilco, Mexico. In the event, I came down with a liver infection in Guerrero during my third year with the bulls and my career, which had not got very far off the ground, was finished.
This morning when I read the WSPA language about the bulls, bullfighting, and cruelty to animals I found it so misinformed, so ignorant, and so hypocritical that it undermines the work that WSPA itself claims to want to do. WSPA doesn’t touch on the matters of courage and grace that the bullfight addresses – always. Usually without success, but when it happens right, there is a living beauty to the affair that is incomparable.
“Bullfight” is a clumsy translation of “working” the bull, “playing” the bull. It represents a living theater where you risk the soundness of your body and your life to create a few moments, even one moment, of unparalleled fusion of your movement in concert with the movement of the bull, a fusion in which there is no sense of contempt for the bull, but only respect, and the desire to create, with the bull, a scene with equal parts of real courage and real beauty.
Memory recalls a young torero fighting as a novillero in the Plaza Monumental in Mexico City, probably in 1954. His name was Salcedo. That afternoon he was performing with grace and great courage and while I watched and cheered and felt my heart pound with the excitement and beauty of the corrida, I saw the bull tear out Salcedo’s left eye. A few months later, maybe in the next season, Salcedo returned to the ring at Plaza Monumental with one eye and while doing a pass with the small cape, his left leg exposed to the left horn of the bull, the animal tore out the inside of Salcedo's left thigh and his career was finished. If he is alive today he is maybe 75, 80 years old.
I never heard a torero complain about the punishment he took from a bull. It was in the nature of things that the bull never complained. The bull meets the challenge that is put before him in the most serious way he can. He understands nothing of theater, nothing of beauty, of grace, though with his movement he is packed with all of it. The bull ring, the audience, the concept of theater, courage, grace -- none of that matters to him. He's a bull.
The WSPSers who pity the suffering of the bull think nothing about the slaughter of tens, of hundreds of millions of animals to eat them. The Torero is willing to risk life and limb to create a theater of courage and grace for an audience. The Eater risks nothing and remains purposefully unaware of the hidden theater of death and slaughter and filth that facilitates his eating. His endless eating. Always slaughtering to eat, always without grace, always without courage, always without considering the blood of the animals he eats, and eats, and eats. The moral justification of such behavior is seldom, very rarely, introduced as an issue.
If you’re in the mood for the comic with respect to the Eaters, see slaughterhousecam . If you’re in the mood for the really comic stuff, Google “Kosher slaughter.” After you look around, consider how the very best (certainly) among us morally justify it all.
When I thanked my associate for sending me the WSPA article I wrote that the page appeared to be written by old ladies, very old ladies, in some back-country, isolated village, or then again maybe in New Orleans. That maybe it was written by Blanch, or Blanch’s ghost.