NOTE: This is a guest post from Kitty Block, an attorney with expertise in international legal adjudication
and agreements. She serves as Humane Society International‘s vice president.
Bullfighting — a horrible spectacle of animal abuse that ends in the slow and tortuous death of an animal provoked and repeatedly gored with knives and swords — is justly in decline. The torment and stabbing to death of animals for amusement can never be acceptable.
In an unbelievable turn of events, however, with so much of the world opposed to the cruelty, bullfighting’s defenders are now seeking to claim their barbarism as a cultural asset under the terms of a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization Convention.
It ought to be obvious in the 21st century that such wanton animal cruelty can never be justified as a cultural privilege. The campaign to classify bullfighting as some kind of a cultural treasure is nothing more than a futile attempt to resuscitate a fading commercial industry that is being abandoned wholesale by both the public and politicians throughout the world. Over the last decade, scores of governments have voted to ban bullfighting, and many more are currently considering action to suppress it.
Even in the countries where bullfighting has traditionally thrived, support for the blood sport is waning, and sponsors are not making enough money to keep it alive. Increasingly, it is being subsidized by governments, a wholly inappropriate use of public funds. Subsidies are meant to address a common good and to help society. Bullfighting doesn’t fall into that category by any measure.
To great acclaim last year, politicians in Catalonia, Spain voted to outlaw bullfighting in that region. The last bullring in Barcelona will shut down this summer, while a popular shopping and entertainment complex has already spring up on the site of a former bullring in the city.
All of these developments make the initiative within UNESCO perplexing, to say the very least. An international body charged with honoring and safeguarding our global cultural heritage should not be asked to dignify a blood sport on any grounds, and it ought not consider such a proposition either, for a public spectacle that allows an animal to be tormented, taunted and cowed by men wielding barbed sticks, swords and knives can never be worthy of protection.
The presence of animal cruelty erodes the fabric of any civil society, with serious effects, most notably its tendency to desensitize children to violence. Bullfighting — a conspicuous form of animal cruelty — is no different from any other, and it is deserves no quarter within or outside of UNESCO as a manifestation of human culture.
Photo credit: HSI