Albert Einstein had once said, ‘If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence should be injury to animals’. For all animal rights activists, a final adieu to the turgid spectacle of bullfighting in Spain definitely is a moment to rejoice, though it is equivalent to a granular speck extricated from a copious sand-mound. In Spain, some have denounced it outright while for others it is a welcome break-away from an archaic, nay barbaric tradition. For a nation brought up on a fizzy fiesta of flamenco music & dance, decades of armed rebellion for Basque independence and the international dispute over Gibraltar, bullfighting has been an indelible cultural earmark, believed to have lasted since the reign of Emperor Claudius almost 2000 years ago. As Barcelona recently hosted the last of the controversial sport, it definitely marked a watershed in Hispanic history.
The fight itself as it unfolds makes for compelling study. In the Spanish lingo it is known as corrida de toros and the team consists of the matador and his assistants, 03 banderilleros and 02 picadores who appear during the first two stages, known as the tercio de varas and tercio de banderillas to provoke and tire the raging bull. The matador himself appears at the third stage called the tercio de muleta performing a number of passes, then jabs at the animal using sharp lances and finally subdues it using a sword or espada which is pushed over the horns and deep between the shoulder blades. If the sword goes in to the hilt, it is an estocada but if it hits the bone it is a pinchazo or media-estocada. An estocada usually results in the bull dropping down immediately and dying but if it survives, the matador takes the descabello, a sword with a protruding shaft, which he stabs straight into the bull’s neck severing the spinal cord.
Now what does one make of this scenario of unfettered blood & gore? If anything, it presents a sad picture as the Spaniards appear to take pride in the killing of a poor, helpless creature. Despite a custom having spawned generations on end, the raw and raucous undercurrents of it in making capital out of an animal’s protracted suffering cannot be justified. Going by the all-pervading law of nature, a spirit of mutual conviviality has to exist between all living species. It is again nature’s decree that man is bestowed with faculties superior to animals, so prudence dictates that we ought to be their guardians rather than oppressors. Such emotional palliatives apart, a tradition that has lasted through centuries is always going to evoke mixed reactions when it draws to a close. For the moment, Spain witnesses the dawn of a new epoch, even as the conscience-keeper of time and faith attempts to cull out a sordid chapter, whose contents no longer makes for worthy settings, from a nation’s chequered history.