The debate on bullfighting is about to reopen in the National Assembly: on November 24, the deputies will have to examine a text aimed at prohibiting this practice, led by the deputy Nupes Aymeric Caron.
Article 521-1 of the Penal Code already prohibits bullfighting (as well as animal abuse and the killing of domestic animals). However, there is an exception for twelve departments in the south of France in which bullfights are permitted under “unbroken tradition”.
In a judgment of April 3, 2000, the Toulouse Court of Appeal specified in particular “that it cannot be argued 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 there is a strong bullfighting tradition that manifests itself in the regular organization of complete bullfighting shows […]”.
In this context, one question has been little addressed until now: what about the psychological consequences of bullfighting on the children who witness them, some of them extremely young?
If we can regret that specific data on the subject is lacking, what we know about children’s perception of animals and violence may nonetheless provide some answers.
Shocked by the violence and blood.
According to anthropologists, not unnecessarily harming living things is a moral foundation that human cultures everywhere seek to promote. However, bullfighting practices correspond exactly to “serious abuse or cruelty to animals” sentenced by article 521 of the penal code to a fine of 30,000 euros and two years in prison, unless they are committed in one of the French departments that enjoy a derogatory status.
When children witness it, the consequences for them are likely to be more damaging than for adults, for two reasons. First, the violent scenes inspire more angst in younger children. In addition, the long-term effects of these types of scenes are more marked in children.
In addition, the sight of blood is something that really bothers the little ones, either because of the observations of their parents or by the interested parties themselves.
Children are more attached to animals than adults.
The second reason for the greater potential vulnerability of children to bullfighting is less well understood. This is because the latter are more attached than adults to the fate of the animals. Studies conducted by researchers at Yale University with children aged 5 to 9 years show that when canine and human life are in balance, 35% of children give priority to the human, 28% to the dog and the rest can’t make a decision. . Adults procrastinate much less: 85% choose humans.
Since children are emotionally closer to animals than adults, recruiting them as spectators at the bull-slaughter ritual (or even as future matadors) is likely to affect them more. If it is proposed to the adults that a dog be put through the ring instead of the bull, they find it untenable and refuse to participate. However, in a child’s head, cows and dogs are much closer together than in ours. Not to mention that it happens that horses (animals to which we are very attached) are also injured or killed.
The comfortable moral border that we draw between the animals that go on our knees or in our stomach results from cultural representations that are not yet fixed among the youngest.
Although the data available on the effect of bullfighting on the little ones, which are too scarce, deserve to be expanded, they already indicate that some children who attend bullfights are affected by them.
After a bullfighting scene, more aggressiveness and anxiety
Spanish and British researchers conducted a survey of 240 children from Madrid between the ages of 9 and 12. To the question “How do you feel when you see a bullfight?”, 10.4% responded that they were happy, 36.8% indifferent and 52.8% felt sorry.
The researchers also had these children watch videos of bullfights in which the scenes were accompanied by voiceover lyrics. Some of the children listened to a presenter’s neutral comments, others enthusiastic and festive outbursts.
This approach revealed that children who had seen bullfighting scenes with festive comments later 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 legitimated by the environment. However, what better way to trivialize violence than by presenting it as a “party”?
These results also seem to invalidate the old catharsis thesis, which stated 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 distress and, depending on how it is staged, tends to trivialize it, even inspire it.
In addition, participating in a bullfight sends the message to young people that there is nothing wrong with having fun hurting animals. However, this point can be considered worrying: in France, a recent survey of 12,500 adolescents revealed that almost 7% of them had already been perpetrators of acts of cruelty to animals. These same perpetrators of violence against animals had more frequently committed acts of aggression towards other students.
Can we believe that the trivialization of violence in the ring stops once the bull is dead and we go home?
United Nations recommends protecting children from bullfights
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, a group of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, has expressed concern about the impact that bullfighting could have on those under the age of 18. as spectators at events and as students at bullfights. schools.
This international convention involves the promotion of children’s mental health and well-being, as well as the “culture of peace and non-violence”. Reminding French governments that our country had ratified it, the United Nations asked France in 2016 to protect children from participating in bullfights. Similar concerns have been expressed to the governments of Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Mexico and even Peru.
It is up to the French deputies to respond, or not, to this request on November 24.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.