Three Catholic priests from the UK, France, and Canada have joined PETA in urging Pope Francis to sever the Roman Catholic Church’s ties with bullfighting.
The priests have written a letter to His Holiness pointing out that the “torture and violent slaughter” of bulls is contrary to Christ’s teachings as well as to the pope’s own principles of mercy and respect.
Together, we urged Pope Francis to condemn bullfighting in the update to his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, which was released on St Francis’ Day (4 October).
Why Bull Torture Cannot Be Considered Christian
In bullfighting arenas, animals are taunted, terrorised, ridiculed, repeatedly stabbed, and eventually killed – all for the entertainment of a small minority of people.
“These spectacles cause immeasurable suffering and pain and stand in stark contrast with the message of love and compassion that Christ taught us. By condemning the torture and violent slaughter of innocent bulls – and especially its association with the Catholic faith – countless animals will be spared and many faithful followers of Christ will find guidance in aligning their actions with the compassionate message of the Gospel.”
– PETA and members of the clergy in their letter to Pope Francis
Pope Francis wrote in his 2015 encyclical, “Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity’.”
Nearly five centuries ago, Pope Pius V, who has since been canonised, denounced bullfights as “cruel and base spectacles of the devil and not of man” and “removed from Christian piety and charity”. He forbade Catholics from attending any such events on penalty of excommunication. The ban still applies to clergy members and bullfights that take place on religious holidays.
The Catholic Church’s Ties to Bullfights
Although the papal proscription is still in effect, due to a lack of enforcement, bullfights are still held in honour of Catholic saints or during Christian celebrations, and priests even bless these vile events.
PETA is urging the pope to honour his namesake, St Francis – the patron saint of animals – by enforcing the ban and calling for an end to this violent and cruel blood sport.
The Ritualised Execution of Bulls
During a bullfight, the terrified animal is chased around the arena until he is exhausted. A tormenter on a blindfolded horse will then drive a lance into his back, causing extreme blood loss intended to weaken him further. More assailants will plunge banderillas – sticks with a harpoon point on one end – into the bull’s upper back, inflicting acute pain whenever he turns his head.
Once blood loss has rendered the bull so weak that he can no longer defend himself, the matador (which literally means “killer”) will stab him in the heart or lungs with a sword. If he doesn’t die quickly enough, the matador will attempt to sever his spinal cord with a dagger or other weapon.
The matador may then cut off the bull’s ears or tail as a trophy, sometimes while the animal is still conscious. Thousands of bulls are killed this way in bullfights every year.
Sign PETA’s Petition to Pope Francis
More than 114,000 supporters, including many Catholics, have signed petitions from PETA entities encouraging the pope to ban bull torture. Join us and add your name: