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January 5, 2011

Bullfighting (Fiesta Brava) in Mexico

Humane Society International

  • We are working to end bullfighting. HSI

Mexico is one of the few remaining countries where bullfighting is still legal (others include Spain, France, Portugal, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador). The largest bullfighting ring in the world, fitting 60,000 spectators, resides in Mexico City. There are approximately 225 bullrings in Mexico, in both large cities and small towns. Only Spain exceeds Mexico in the number of bullfights per year.

An agonizing death

The object of bullfighting is for the bullfighter (matador) to “conquer and kill the bull with a swift clean kill by placing a sword in a coin-sized area between the bull’s shoulders.” [1] Advocates of bullfighting argue that if the matador aims correctly, the animal dies in a matter of seconds. This type of quick, clean death, however, is not the norm. In most cases, the matador misses the target, injuring the bull’s lungs and bronchial tubes, causing blood to flow and bubble through the animal’s mouth and nose.

Bullfighting is "a cruel tradition, where the victim first off is innocent and where it is savagely tortured and massacred, as a tradition it is ethically inconceivable."

In every bullfight, or “corrida de toros”, four to six bulls are killed. Each bullfight is split into three "tercios," or thirds, with two bullfights per session, each lasting about 20 minutes.

Expert opinion

According to ex-matador D. Alvaro Múnera, bullfighting is “una tradición cruel, donde la víctima primero es inocente y donde es salvajemente torturada y masacrada, como tradición éticamente es inconcebible [a cruel tradition, where the victim first off is innocent and where it is savagely tortured and massacred, as a tradition it is ethically inconceivable].” [2]

Zoologist Jordi Casamitjana agrees, stating that “all behavioural evidence shows that bulls and cows suffer in bullfights; yes, they do suffer in all types of bullfights, even in those that do not end with their deaths; and yes, all aspects of any bullfight, from the transport to the death, are in themselves causes of suffering.” [3]

In Mexico, children as young as six may begin training for a career in this bloody "sport" [4].


¹Brook B. 2004.  The Real Mexico.  Mexico’s Dance with death. http://www.therealmexico.com/bullfighting.htm.  Accessed July 11, 2008.

²Fraile, Julio Ortega.  OtroMadrid.org.  Entrevista a D. Alvaro Múnera, de Torero a Luchador Contra la Tortura.  http://www.otromadrid.org/articulo/5837/entrevista-alvaro-munera-torero/.  Accessed July 16, 2008.

³Casamitjana, Jordi.  ‘Suffering’ in bullfighting bulls; An ethologist’s perspective. http://www.ffw.ch/files/Corrida%202008/eng_jordi_casamitjana.pdf.  Accessed July 14, 2008.

4Kocherga, Angela.  2008.  Child bullfighters face death in the ring.  http://www.khou.com/topstories/stories/khou080219_tnt_kidbullfighters.a5d1337.html.  Accessed July 16, 2008.

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