I was born and raised in London and rural East Anglia, to English parents, but from November 2008 (when the above photo was taken) until November 2010, I based myself in Seville, Spain, and tried to find out everything I could on the subject of bullfighting following an article I wrote on the subject for Prospect magazine in the UK, which was circulated widely, from the Dayton Daily News in Ohio to The India Express in Bombay, from CNN to Al-Jazeera. This is despite its conclusion being an open one. All I said was,
“Whether or not the artistic quality of the bullfight outweighs the moral question of the animals’ suffering is something that each person must decide for themselves – as they must decide whether the taste of a steak justifies the death of a cow. But if we ignore the possibility that one does outweigh the other, we fall foul of the charge of self-deceit and incoherence in our dealings with animals.” (The article is reprinted on this blog here)
I spent most of the first year travelling with bullfighters to watch them work in bullrings and ranches of Spain, France and Portugal. From Spain’s greatest amateur bullfighter, Adolfo Suárez Illana, to her bravest professional Juan José Padilla; from her most famous, Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez, to her newest star, Miguel Ángel Perera – I got to know these men and, at their suggestion, entered the ring with them (and survived.)
Although many will argue that this destroys any semblance of neutrality in my research, in fact, if anything it made me strive harder for impartiality. I did not for one second cease thinking about – and writing about – the cruelties involved in bullfighting. I have been a paid up member of the WWF since I was thirteen – more than twenty years – and was a member of Greenpeace for ten. I studied biology and then philosophy at the universities of Oxford and then London, undergraduate and postgraduate, and have published in favour of increased Animal Rights – see, for example, my Financial Times article on ape intelligence reprinted on this blog here.
The completed book, Into The Arena – The World of the Spanish Bullfight was published by Profile Books on May 26th, 2011. It went on to gain excellent reviews and be shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year. (The book website is here.) I hope I do this astonishingly complicated, dramatic and important spectacle – whether you end by loving it or hating it – justice.
(I can be contacted directly by leaving a comment on the page here.)