Life And Death In The Ring


Eric Nusbaum recently attended his first bullfight in Mexico City:

I was prepared for violent death when I arrived at Plaza México, and violent death was what I got. The first bull was small and puppy-like; he hardly seemed vicious. After a series of hypnotic dodges and maneuvers that were so elegant as to not even look dangerous, El Juli failed on the initial thrust of his sword. The steel blade clanked down to the dirt. Only on the third thrust was the sword (called anestocada) successfully inserted. The matador rolled his eyes, thinking finally, and went to retrieve his hat from where he had ceremoniously placed it in the center of the ring. The bull seemed suddenly aware that not only was he doomed, but that he had been duped, publicly humiliated. He bucked briefly and desperately, then he fell for a final time. The trumpets played a funereal dirge. I have never been to war, but bullfighting as an approximation for it only makes sense to me in that both activities are draped in flags and often based on antiquated ideas.

Nusbaum wonders if, in some ways, the bull has lived a “charmed life”:

He had been bred for strength, raised for four years on a large ranch, pampered and prepared. He would die a miserable public death, and afterward he would be butchered for meat. Is this worse than the life of typical beef cow, who after six months alongside his mother is sent to a crowded feedlot to be fattened up with grain and injected with antibiotics for another six months before meeting his own inglorious death by captive bolt pistol? Obviously this is a false choice. More ethical options exist. But the hypothetical is worth considering. Which life and death would you prefer?

(Photo: Colombian bullfighter Ramses tries to kill a bull during a bullfight at La Macarena bullring on January 19, 2013 in Medellin, Antioquia deparment, Colombia. By Raul Arbodela/AFP/Getty Images.)