About Me

My photo
My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fighting the Bull

A few days ago, somebody I follow on Facebook posted a link to an article on bullfighting in the LA Times. A matador was seriously injured by a bull and is recovering from surgery.  There was no mention in the article of what happened to the bull; I am assuming that if the bull was healthy enough to keep using, he is still alive somewhere.

As I casually read through the FB comments -- many, understandably, along the lines of  "serves him right!" -- I ran across one that said, "Damn! He should have died.  That impotent animal abuser."

Now, I *really* think that bullfighting is a grotesque sport.  When I was a student in Spain, in 1988, this was a heated topic, with many young Spaniards agreeing that the sport should go.  We talked about it often and I, along with most of the Americans in my student group, chose not to go to a bullfight even though it is arguably something that is distinctly Spanish.

I didn't like bullfighting then and I don't now.

However, I do not think it's appropriate to wish that a bullfighter had died. 

I said as much in the thread. 

The responses I got were fascinating -- much in the same way that a train wreck is fascinating.  You can't stop looking because it's all so unbelievable.

""Normally I agree one shouldn't wish somebody to die, but with bullfighters I make an exception..."

"Given all the bulls this guy has tortured and killed, his death would be a blessing for animals.  Better luck next time."

"When this animal is bleeding to death from his injuries he is either left to die or they kill him...When the bull loses, he gets nothing...but when the man loses, he gets medical care and love. Mess with a bull and you get..the horns! It seems more than "low" to wish this man alive to hurt more animals! More than "naive" to think he will ever change! You keep waiting...I will fight for animal rights!"

I replied to this last charge -- that because I don't want a man to die, it must (implicitly) mean that I don't fight for animal rights.  I do.  Anybody who follows me (my personal page) on Facebook knows that I cross-post listings of animals needing homes, that I follow PETA and the Humane Society, and that I sign petitions to save whales, wild horses, elephants, etc.  I *do* care about animals; the quality of their lives matters!

The response?  A sarcastic, "That's wonderful that you don't wish for him to die. Kudos to you!"

Am I crazy to think that animal rights activists who publicly wish for the death of people they dislike might just have a hard time bringing more people to their cause?  Is it so hard to understand that this man is a product of his culture -- just as we ALL are products of our cultures?  Is it hard to understand that, in his case, he receives tremendous glory for his perceived bravery?  In fact, now that he has survived, he will probably be even more glorified.  Yes, he may continue to fight bulls.  And yes, I think that's wrong. 

Animal rights activists would do well to continue their work without wishing that the people making bad or immoral choices should die.  To do otherwise is, well, inhumane


  1. i don't think you're crazy!! i think anyone who wishes anything life threatening is very "un" vegan. i think veganism is about respecting life. animals, the community, the environment . . . . . so going against this thought is a depravity. and it's a shame because the public uses negative examples of animal activists when labeling people who believe in animal rights. and the injustice is that there are bad peas everywhere. but that's just my opinion . . . . .

  2. Fundamentalists ... be they Christians, Muslims, Vegans, Environmental Activists ... all seem to share the distressing trait of seeing the world through their rigid, myopic filter--a world where there is no grace, forgiveness, flexibility, etc. for anyone who doesn't support the cause or adhere to the party line. Blech!

  3. You are so right!! People need to remember that we are the ones to show others how to treat all living things with love, kindness and respect. All words and deeds must be reflecting this outlook if any change will happen to protect animals. My love for dolphins and whales sparked me to ask the question...why is it ok for me to eat beef and chicken but wrong for others to hunt dolphins and eat marine mammals? I am at the beginning of my journey to change my diet and am so glad to have found your site for support. Thanks! April

  4. If I may go out on a limb here. I think this awful attitude you encounter comes from what I consider misguided notion that an animal's life is as important as a human life. I do not believe that.
    But if we place animals on the same value plane as humans then wishing the death of a bullfighter would be the moral equivalent of wishing the death of a fugitive serial killer.
    What do you think, Elaine and others think? Do animal rights advocates consider the life of say, a bull, as sacred as the life of a human? I do not. That said, I do believe we are obliged to treat animals with kindness and bullfighting certainly doesn't.

  5. Allison -- I've written about this before: according to the strictest vegans, there should be no hierarchy of human and non-human lives. According to them, choosing to privilege a human life over an animal life is like racism, and they call it "speciesism".

    While I tend to hold a view that is closer to yours, I do think it's important to recognize that *one* of the reasons that animals suffer so much (on factory farms, in bullfighting, etc.) is because we generally do not think of their welfare as being as important as ours. It's a slippery slope from "an animal's life is not as important as a human one" to "it's OK to hurt the bull because he's just an animal". I DO think vegans and other animal rights' activists are right to point out how our culture, perhaps sometimes inadvertently, promotes a POV that is incredibly dangerous for animals.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Elaine; So how to promote an ethic that protects the safety of animals yet cherishes the unique value of a human life? Would a strict vegan, for example, say there is no moral difference between killing a newborn baby and a newborn chick? Or that a disabled baby's life is worth less than the life of a healthy colt?
    This sounds like pantheism to me.

  8. P.S. I would also like to know how many vegans other than you are raising multiple children. It could be easy to have these theoretical constructs about "specieism" etc. but try thinking this way when you are raising lots of kids.

  9. my internet was a little wacky last night - as usual . . . . errrr! this is what i originally posted:

    as a strict vegan, i too believe people and animals are equally important. in my experience, vegans who transcend their diet to lifestyle often share this idea. but this is not to say they or i view the world in such a way that an eye for an eye is acceptable behavior. to dismiss the idea of ownership and live via cohabitation means valuing all life. when you start grading the value of life, i think problems ensue. who is to say the way people treat other people doesn't begin with how they value the things they touch and affect outside of human interaction? i'm not judging people who don't live a vegan life. i'm just saying that valuing all life is a central concept for veganism and i don't think it necessitates harboring such hard feelings that those individuals retaliate. i think the people who wish evil on others for harming animals find themselves on a path outside of veganism and twist its philosophy.

  10. have it be for whatever lies inside themselves. there are those with no interest in animal rights and yet murder. people who never thought about the word vegan and rape. so i don't think there's a direct connection between veganism and wanting someone to hurt. i think they happen to be vegan and use whatever personality inside to think they way they do.

    i don't have children yet, but you better believe it - i'm raising my children vegan! i've been vegetarian since i was 14 (now 31). and in between that time i've been a vegan at different times and for a period before going back to vegetarian. not that i didn't believe in it. but because i wasn't doing it right and kept on getting sick (i ate pizza and that was it!). but now that i know more about nutrition and i'm a little more mature (at least i would hope =P), i've been vegan again for over 3 years. it's such a part of my life, there is no way my children will be anything but vegan in terms of how i raise them. what they do with it outside the house is their own free will and decision. but in terms of rearing - veganism.

  11. I'm raising two children and we're all (them, me and my wife) vegan. I don't understand how thinking about speciesism would change if you have kids.

    To humans, humans are more important than other animals. But bulls are more important to bulls. Don't bulls have unique value to themselves? Rabbits are more important to rabbits. Bears more important to bears.

    Do I think a human life is intrinsically worth more than a non-human life? Well, no, to tell you the truth, because worth isn't assigned by what you know or what you can do (if it was, then a 2-year-old human would be worth less than a 5-year-old).

    To flip the question that Allison asked: Would a non-vegan, for example, say there is no moral difference between killing a severely mentally disabled adult and a brilliant 32 year old surgeon?

    If both are equally wrong, then the reason they are wrong is because it's wrong to kill humans because they are sentient. We don't base our moral actions among humans on who's smarter than the other, or who is more physically functional.

    Since animals are also sentient, then it's also equally as wrong to kill them.

    That said, would I save my child or extended family member over a dog I don't know? Of course. Would you save your beloved dog (or other pet) over a human's life you don't know half-way across the world? Many people would. In fact, given how much money Americans spend on their pets, it could be argued that people do just that every day.

    The idea that human life is somehow intrinsically worth more than non-human life is part of the definition of speciesism. But here's the thing, you don't have to accept that these lives have equal intrinsic worth in order to become vegan. All you have to do is realize that non-human animals have an interest in not suffering and in not dying. And then you have to take that interest seriously. And to take that interest seriously you need to stop participating in and contributing to the unnecessary exploitation and ownership of animals.

    Easy peasy.

  12. Al: Thanks for responding. I appreciate your outlining your thoughts. Because I agree with it I especially appreciate your final paragraph! (plus the civil tone throughout)

  13. Marilyn asks:

    Do vegans vaccinate their children? I've been wondering about this, since some vaccines (a lot) are produced in chicken eggs.

    For me, it is ludicrous to think that a human life is NOT worth more than a chicken egg.


  14. Marilyn -- Interesting that you bring this up because, indeed, some vegans (not ones I know personally, but ones I've read) cite the chicken egg-vaccine connection as a reason (not the main one) to NOT vaccinate. I, of course, think that is taking things WAY too far. (This is getting off topic, but it IS true that what goes on in the egg industry is really inhumane and, if more people knew about it, they might not eat eggs...)


Politeness is always appreciated.