Reading Pauline Hawkins’ column in the Courier’s Tues 11 Oct edition: Should we feel sorry for this bullfighter? Well I think, yes and no.
The matador in his duel with the bull is three Centuries old. In a time past if you like. Tradition in many cases has a very inhumane way of expressing itself. The bull as Pauline states correctly is weakened by Toreador’s and Picadors’ spears. El Toro nevertheless charges into the ring regardless as he is trained to do so. These beasts are raised in Andulucia and later in Seville. They can grow to enormous dimensions and weigh as much as a small car, ie, 15cwt.
The man who confronts such animals follows an age old ritual which takes days and the final hours in a private and personal ceremony that includes a kind of last rites in a place of sanctuary where he finally puts the finishing touches to his spiritual endeavour and his costume. In both cases there is great bravery. The beast knowing that in one fast movement he could kill the matador before he himself is weakened. His protagonist has a cape in which he entices the animal whilst at the same time confusing and agitating him.
I remember as a young man watching the great: El Cordobes(Manuel Benitez Perez) being flung in the air nearly ten feet. He was gored in the chest and and groin on different occasions. And still he came back to the challenge. One of his trademark feats was to kneel down on one knee whils his adversary would repeatedly hoof out a groove in the sand ready to charge. His reputatation is legend(how that description is totally misused today) as he was known to have faced some of the largest bulls not only in ferocity, but in weight and power that have ever entered an arena.
I realise that its hard to believe there is honour in this conflict as we in the British Isles are basically animal lovers. I also understand that there is a change of heart stirring within the Spanish people as a whole who want to ban this contest
Does Pauline know even in the partisan crowd of bullfighting fans there is a certain action by a bullfighter that would incense the crowd if he didn’t despatch the animal quickly, where the sword has to enter between neck and shoulder into the heart. There is stories even to this day of men who faced being lynched even under escort from the bullring. Again its difficult for us English to grasp all of this.
As for Michael Cohen in South Africa losing a leg to a Great White predator cruising about wherein he was continually warned about the sighting of Jaws. Talk about a foolhardy death-wish.
I realise the columnist likes to be contraversial, but where I think Pauline lets herself down as a reporter in this instance commenting on such animalistic issues is when she finished with her less than feeling attitude about Steve Irwin. Here was a man not unlike David Attenborough, Gerald Durrel etc who pioneered looking at all manner of creatures in his own country, and later in the World. He then opened a zoo so as to understand the deep and fascinating growth, breeding, living and hunting habits of the many and varied species that inhabited the Earth. He made conservation interesting and accessable for children of 4yrs of age upwards. If I recollect the cicumstances of his death he wasn’t bothering the stingray but was actually just swimming. It was indeed a truly tragic and unavoidable accident.
To qoute P Hawkins’ last paragraph about him: in the end it was perhaps fitting that an innocuous and usually friendly creature, the stingray, finished him off. You could be forgiven as the reader about the writer talking about despatching a bull instead of a talented conservationalist human being.