This piece begins with a masterful recounting of a bullfight in which the both the drama and the horrifying, fascinating art of the spectacle are fully realised. Reading it one can almost hear the blare of the trumpets and roar of the crowd and smell the dust, sweat and blood. It inspires respect for the bull and a certain horrified admiration for its fighters.

Unfortunately it then moves to rather confused, disjointed discussion of the ethics of the bullfight, and to a lesser extent animal rights in general. Good points are made, but they seem to be lost in a confusing mess of other good points. It is, perhaps, right to point out the hypocrisy of Brits who happily consume factory-farmed red meat purely for aesthetic reasons, yet consider the bullfight somehow immoral. I’m not sure of the wildlife documentary example. One would think that people don’t watch those for the cheap thrill of watching lions hunt, kill and eat wildebeest (but I suspect there probably are a few weirdos who do).  But I do like this paragraph:

This brings us to the heart of the matter: the question of animal rights. I do not believe animals have rights in the strict ethical sense of the word. If they did, they would have duties to uphold those rights for themselves, which is a risible notion. It would also follow that we would have a duty to prevent the lion from killing the wildebeest on Big Cat Diary, which would be an obscene act. However, even if one believes that attributing rights to animals is a nonsense, “it would not follow,” to quote Roger Scruton’s 1996 book, Animal Rights and Wrongs, “that we can treat them as we choose. It may still be the case… that certain ways of treating them are vicious and that there are only some ways of treating them that a good person would contemplate.”

About the Author


A Kiwi teaching English to oil workers in Beijing, studying Chinese in my spare time, married to a beautiful Beijing lass, consuming vast quantities of green tea (usually Xihu Longjing/西湖龙井, if that means anything to you), eating good food (except for when I cook), missing good Kiwi ale, breathing smog, generally living as best I can outside Godzone and having a good time of it.

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