Bette Ford

In fighting a bull you’re always aware of a paradox concerning your perceptions of the bull. On the one hand it’s your perceptions of the bull that give you the upper hand. You read the bull, you learn to read the bull more and more accurately, and this reading of the bull is how you deploy your intelligence against the bull’s intelligence. Your accuracy in reading the bull is a weapon, maybe your most important weapon, against all the bull’s weapons. On the other hand, you’re human, you have the human tendency to read into the bull things which may not actually be there.

My own experience has taught me not to underestimate the power of those who protest against cruelty. I’d also say that there may be a tendency to view the animal-rights opposition in somewhat distorted fashion as a new development, as the product of a very recent enlightenment about the rights due to animals.

Acting requires focus, too, but acting doesn’t, you might say, demand focus. When you’re in the ring you don’t even have to think about focus because the danger is so imminent. Imminent. You train and you prepare and then the adrenaline kicks in and drives you into focusing intensely. You’d better focus, right? Or else you’ll make your exit on a stretcher.

I don’t believe that anyone connected with bullfighting would deny that what happens in the ring has an element of suffering and perhaps cruelty to it. So then it comes back to whether the suffering and cruelty is justified by its place in a tradition that has deep roots in the culture. At present, the view in Catalonia apparently is that it does not.

Bullfighting is anachronistic – you enter into a bullring and you’re leaving behind the values of the world outside the ring. I suppose that what I would want to acknowledge is that perhaps the tension, the crucial tension, isn’t necessarily between the view of bullfighting as a tradition versus as an art form, but between the values inside the ring and the values outside the ring.

Bullfighting has some of the elements of a sport or contest, and in the United States most people think of it as a sport, an unfair sport. If you’re in Spain or Mexico it’s absolutely not a sport; it’s not thought of as a sport and it’s not written about as a sport. It has elements of public spectacle, but then so does, for example, the Super Bowl. It has elements of a deeply entrenched, deeply conservative tradition, a tradition that resists change, as you pointed out.