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MEXICO: Rodeos and other imports

Animal rights are a hot topic. My granddaughter is a vegetarian. I could easily be one. John Wonder writes::

"The older I get the more repugnance I feel about eating animals. Frankly, I never used to give it a thought. Perhaps it is the experience of having a pet or two and seeing herds of cows--they do look so sad. The way pigs are kept is also disquieting, und so weiter I am sure if we put our minds to it, we could produce very tasty food not animal-based."

In Mexico, bullfighting arouses strong feelings. Raúl Escalante writes: "No fan of bullfighting (quite the opposite actually), I nonetheless disagree with Elías on a couple of points. I wouldn't equate bullfighting with dog or cock fighting in terms of baseness. In the latter two, no skill is involved on the part of humans, nor do those "sports" represent any danger to the humans involved: there is no gallantry whatsoever to shroud the blood-lust and financial exploitation of animals.

The reason I insist on this point is that an enemy can only be fought if it is understood. I have many friends who were brought up to love bullfighting, and frankly admire (for other reasons, of course) people who are fanatical about the "fiesta brava". Their enjoyment of bullfighting is, I sincerely believe, derived mainly from the artistry in it, the uncertainty, etc. plus the underlying morbidity that bewitched Hemingway. The only way that I think these friends of mine will renounce their passion is by realizing the true measure of the cost they impose on the bulls and on society by conditioning children to enjoy such a bloody spectacle.

As for all the injuries bulls are subject to in preparation for a fight (vaseline in the eyes, starvation, bleeding, beating with flour-sacks, etc.), they are hotly denied by proponents of bullfighting (at least in serious bullrings). Since the odds are that every serious bullfighter will sustain two or three life-threatening gorings over his career, I believe the argument of bullfighting being unsportsmanlike is not very powerful except to counter the rather stupid remark that "If asked, bulls would rather die fighting [with a probability of goring their tormentor] than in a slaughterhouse" (what good is goring a bullfighter to a bull which will be killed anyway?).

I feel uncomfortable writing this, since I am conscious that I have evaded Paul Simon's legitimate question about "terms and boundaries". As Paul says, I believe these parameters are necessary if any sort of consistent stand is to be taken on the issue of animal rights. However, I am not sure that consistency is indispensable. As far as I know, none of the major systems of ethical norms (utilitarian, Kantian, etc.), on which our legislations are based - including those relating to human rights - are even remotely entirely consistent. Nor are any legislations based entirely on a single ethical system, but rather combine norms from different systems for different circumstances.

As law-makers have had in the past, on the issue of animal rights we have little more other than our personal conscience and our ability to reason amongst each other in order to reach some sort of consensus."

My comment: I know nice Mexican families which have their own fighting cocks. The children seem somewhat embarrassed about it.

Ronald Hilton - 12/20/01