Vasco Reis, studied in Hanover, Germany, and worked as a vet 7 years in Switzerland and 10 years in Germany. He followed the world of Portuguese bullfighting closely when he was the municipal vet in Praia da Vitória, Ilha Terceira of the Azores, between 1986 and 1989. Today he is actively retired and living in Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal. He is a founder member of an association (AEZA) which protects environment and animals and whose persistence helped in the abolition of bullfighting in the Aljezur council.
Bullfighting through the eyes of a vet.
Both human animals and non-human animals are gifted with a nervous system, more or less developed, which allows them to feel and be conscious of their environment and to be able to distinguish what is pleasurable, dangerous, aggressive and painful.
These beings all experience sensations, emotions and feelings in a similar manner. This being the case they can use the mechanisms of fight and flight, without which, they would not be able to survive. Therefore fear and pain are essential for survival.
It is said that in some cases and without the aid of medication, animals may not feel fear and pain if they are threatened or hurt, this is a very ignorant theory, or just denial of the plain truth.
Science reveals that in the anatomic, physiologic and neurological system of the bull, the horse and man, among other mammals are extremely similar.
The reactions of these species are similar when they are threatened, frightened or hurt. Common sense tells us this, and science confirms it.
After this explanation, imagine the suffering that a human would undergo if he or she were put in place of the bull, captured and lead to the “Calvary” of a bullfight.
What would be the ethic conclusion?
Humans (bullfighters) should not inflict suffering towards other equally sensitive beings, such as bulls and horses, which they would not subject themselves to.
In the Portuguese bullfights, it is important to mention the claustrophobia and the panic that the bull experiences from when it is taken violently from its field and transported in a confined space to the ring, and how afterwards it is constantly abused with the intention of weakening it physically and emotionally before it is led out into the ring.
Once in the ring, the bull is then subjected to much provocation and torture and afterwards comes more suffering at the end, with the always violent and painful extraction of the spears, tearing and striking the skin to free the banderilla.
When it is all over, the animal is placed in a vehicle and transported to the slaughterhouse, worn out, hurt and febrile, in a severe toxic metabolic acidosis, which makes it very sick, until after a few days death finally frees it from its suffering.
The horse suffers from exhaustion and terrible psychological tension from being used as a vehicle, and from being dominated and encouraged by force to confront the bull; when the horse’s natural instinct is to run away from it.
With the heavy training, the spurs which hurt and wound it, the bits in the mouth and the chain around the jaw, which is a painful way to overpower it, the horse risks death in the ring either by syncope (heart attack) or because of the wounds inflicted on it.
It is difficult, if not impossible to believe that bullfighters and those who enjoy bullfighting can say they love bulls and horses, when they subject them to such violence, risks and suffering.
I can’t help but wonder why such a violent activity based on the public suffering of these animals, is allowed to continue, legally and authorized by law or even how it has fans and is applauded and glorified by some.
A true democracy does not permit torture. Do you?
Vasco Reis, 13.6.13
in Algarve Jornal 123, Portimão, Portugal
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