By chance a few minutes ago, I was reading the story of the football player who pleaded guilty to being involved in dog fighting just as the BBC’s World Update was talking about Spanish National TV’s decision to drop the live broadcast of bull fighting. It being that particular BBC program, geared to what they imagine an American audience will accept, the only person I heard interviewed was the wife of a former star of the “sport” who had written seven books on the subject. Want to guess what her opinion was? Oddly, what is done to the bulls in the prolonged and particularly sadistic slaughter of them is barely mentioned in the general media. I haven’t checked anti-cruelty sources to see what they say. While I agree that the damage done to young children and adults, one might add, by watching premeditated, organized and commercial sadism the horrible suffering of the animals is certainly the central point.
I’ve heard fox hunting, dog fighting, cock fighting and a myriad of other forms of recreational cruelty explained as important “cultural practices” as is bull fighting in Spain. It is one of the worst features of human cultures that the infliction and viewing of suffering on sentient creatures is common. But no anthropological romanticism, which is a particularly pernicious form of condescension, should be allowed to mask what is really commercialized evil. In its worst form, as in fox hunting and bull fighting, the organized cruelty is sufficiently popular to be used as a political tool.
Traditionalists disagreed. "It is obvious that watching bullfights on the television does not traumatise children," protested Juan Manuel Albendea, of the conservative People's party.
The National Association of Bullfight Organisers has accused Luís Rodriguez Zapatero's government of using state television to perpetrate "a shameless, unjust attack on culture".
I'm sure that some people will agree with the matador's wife interviewed on the BBC that the solution for those who opposed carnage as entertainment is "to change the channel". Of course that doesn't mean your children won't have to deal with potential monsters who imbibed a lust for cruelty in their homes. I fully believe that people who are brought up enjoying the suffering of animals are more likely to enjoy the suffering of people and more likely to inflict such suffering. And while it might allow people to ignore what is being done, it does nothing to actually stop the suffering of animals by people who make money by inflicting it.
I've considered The Badger to be one of the most disturbing poems in the English language for quite a while.
When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes by.
He comes and hears - they let the strongest loose.
The old fox hears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
And the old hare half wounded buzzes by.
They get a forkéd stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.
He turns about to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where'er they go;
When badgers fight, then everyone's a foe.
The dogs are clapped and urged to join the fray;
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for hours and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away.
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through - the drunkard swears and reels.
The frighted women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, an awkward race,
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chase.
He turns again and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd again;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and cackles, groans and dies.
John Clare 1798 to 1864