The debate on bullfighting is about to be reopened in the National Assembly: on November 24, representatives must examine a text aimed at banning this practice, brought by Nupes representative Aymeric Caron.
Article 521-1 of the Penal Code already prohibits bullfights (as well as animal abuse and the killing of domestic animals). However, there is an exception for twelve departments in the south of France where bullfighting is permitted under “unbroken tradition”.
In a judgment of April 3, 2000, the Court of Appeal of Toulouse specifically referred “which is indisputable that in the South of France between the country of Arles and the Basque Country, between the scrubland and the Mediterranean, between the Pyrenees and the Garonne, in Provence, Languedoc, Catalonia, Gascony, Landes and the Basque Country exists. a strong which bullfighting tradition manifests itself in the organization of complete bullfighting shows on a regular basis […]”.
In this context, a question has not been addressed much so far: what are the psychological consequences of bullfighting on the children who witness it, some of them very young?
If we can regret that specific data on the subject is very lacking, what we know about children’s understanding of animals and violence can provide some answers.
Shocked by the violence and blood
According to anthropologists, not harming living beings unnecessarily is a moral foundation that human cultures everywhere seek to promote. However, bullfighting skills are exactly the same “serious abuse or cruelty to animals” sentenced by article 521 of the criminal code of a fine of 30,000 euros and two years in prison, unless they are committed in one of the French departments that benefit from a destructive status.
When children witness this, the consequences for them are likely to be worse than for adults, for two reasons. First, violent scenes cause more anxiety in younger children. In addition, the long-term effects of this type of scene are more noticeable in children.
Also, seeing blood is something that really annoys the youngest, either based on the observation of their parents or according to those who are interested.
Children are more attached to animals than adults
A second reason for children’s greater potential vulnerability to bullfighting is less well known. This is due to the fact that the latter are more attached than adults to the fate of animals. Studies conducted by researchers at Yale University with 5-9 year olds show that when a dog and human life are in balance, 35% of children give priority to the human, 28% to dog and one cannot decide. . Adults procrastinate less: 85% choose people.
Since children are emotionally closer to animals than adults, enlisting them as spectators in the bull-killing ritual (or even as future matadors) is likely to affect them more. If it is suggested to the adults that a dog be pierced instead of the bull in the arena, they find this unacceptable and refuse to participate. However, in a child’s head, cows and dogs are closer than we are. Not to mention that it happens that horses (animals to which we are very attached) are injured or die too.
The comfortable moral boundaries we draw between the animals that kneel or in our stomachs result from cultural representations that have not yet been fixed in the youngest.
Although the available data on the impact of bullfighting shows the youngest, which is very rare, deserves to be expanded, they already suggest that some children who attend bullfights are affected by them.
After a bullfighting scene, more aggression and anxiety
Spanish and British researchers conducted a survey of 240 children in Madrid aged 9 to 12. To the question “How do you feel when watching a bullfight?”, 10.4% answered happy, 36.8% did not. care, and 52.8% who feel lonely.
The researchers also had these children watch videos of bullfights where the scenes were accompanied by voice-over lyrics. Some of the children heard neutral comments of a presenter, others enthusiastic and joyful outbursts.
This approach revealed that children who saw bullfighting scenes with happy comments experienced more anxiety and showed more hostility.
These results are consistent with other studies that establish that the impact of a violent scene is greater when it is legitimized by the entourage. However, how much better to trivialize violence than to present it as a “fiesta”?
These results also seem to invalidate the old catharsis thesis, which asserted that the spectacle of violence would produce a purge of aggressive impulses. In fact, more often than not, when children see violence, it causes them anxiety, and depending on how it is portrayed, it tends to trivialize it, even inspire it.
Additionally, participating in a bullfight sends a message to young people that there is nothing wrong with having fun by hurting animals. However, this point can be considered alarming: in France, a recent survey of 12,500 young people revealed that almost 7% of them have been perpetrators of acts of cruelty to animals. The same perpetrators of violence against animals were more likely to commit aggressive actions toward other students.
Can we believe that the trivialization of violence in the arena will stop when the bull is dead and we go home?
The United Nations recommends protecting children from bullfighting
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, a group of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has expressed concern about the impact of bullfighting on children under the age of 18 as spectators. event and as students in bullfighting schools.
This international convention includes promoting children’s mental health and well-being, as well “culture of peace and non-violence”. Reminding French governments that our country has adopted this, in 2016 the United Nations asked France to protect children from participating in bullfighting. Similar concerns have been expressed by the Spanish, Portuguese, Colombian, Mexican and even Peruvian governments.
It remains for the French deputies to respond to this request, or not, on November 24.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.