Warning: Graphic Content
A bullfighting school has sparked outrage after having teenagers slaughter 24 calves for entertainment while children watched on.
Academies which train youngsters to kill calves are common practice in Spain, although support for bullfighting in the country is diminishing as calls for the practice to end increase.
Despite this, one school in Colmenar Viejo doubled down on the disturbing practice recently, defying the mounting wave of outrage against it by having two dozen of the helpless animals killed by its students over a period of four days.
Footage captured by activists from animal welfare charities show a number of teenagers slaughtering the calves in front of a small audience.
Although the audience is only small, children can clearly be seen among those watching – with one boy seen recording everything on a tablet he is holding above his head.
Later on, when the calves have been slaughtered, some of the younger children are presented with ears carved from the dying animals as a trophy of the kills.
A spokesperson for Animal Guardians said although the exact ages of the would-be matadors could not be determined, some people start training in bullfighting rings as young as 14.
Marta Esteban explained:
They usually start killing animals from 14 years old onwards and they usually stay in bullfighting schools until they are 18, although some stay until they are 21.
This event violates the right of children and adolescents to live in an environment free of violence and it is imperative that something be done about it.
The calf-fights, known in Spain as becerradas, involve bulls no older than one year old – and no bigger than a mastiff – being slaughtered in extremely painful and degrading ways purely for entertainment.
These fights are considered ‘practical classes’ by the bullfighting academies, of which there are approximately 50 across Spain; 24 operate in the region of Andalusia alone.
Calves are often used in place of bulls because they are less of a danger to humans, and so are less likely to hurt inexperienced matadors or untrained guests when they enter the bullring.
On the flip side of this, the teenagers the calves face in the ring are likely to cause more suffering to the animals because they are inexperienced; the attacks they launch are less likely to be fatal and so the torture is prolonged.
Additionally, the usual physical and psychological suffering of the animals is increased due to the calves’ greater fragility and their desperate need to feel protected by their herd.
Now, animal rights activists are launching an international petition to ensure calf-fights are banned from the country for good.
Carmen Ibarlucea, president of La Tortura No Es Cultura (Torture is not Culture), said:
It is inconceivable that these acts of extreme violence towards sentient beings can be considered a form of entertainment.
They are an atrocity and should be banned. We ask people to sign our petition and write to the city council of Colmenar Viejo asking for the end of these spectacles.
Although bullfights are protected under the Spanish constitution as part of the country’s cultural heritage, support for the practice has fallen from 30 per cent to 19 per cent in less than three years, as per Animal Guardians.
You can sign the petition to end calf-fighting here.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).