Bullfighting in itself is already a highly criticized cultural sport in Spain, with animal rights activists working to ban the cruel practice. The struggle may have borne fruit since the Canary Islands and the Catalonia region of Spain have already prohibited the ritualistic and bloody festival. However, after the famous Spanish matador Francisco Rivera Ordoñez posted a controversial photo on his social media network, new fires centered on bullfighting were stoked.
This photo shows Rivera holding his 5-month-old baby girl, but not in circumstances any parent could presently imagine—he was holding her while practicing in the bullfighting ring, with a live, charging, and wounded bull calf in proximity.
The caption says in Spanish: “Carmen’s debut. She is the fifth generation which bullfights in our family. My grandfather was bullfighting like this with my father. My father was bullfighting like this with me, and I have done it with my daughters Cayetana and now with Carmen #prideintheblood”
To further prove that he was simply upholding a longstanding family tradition, he followed it up with a second post of a photo of him on his father’s shoulders, but also in the bullfighting ring with a live bull. Its caption goes, “History repeats itself. Long live the lost legacy, the feeling, purity, honor.”
In contrary to the figurative image Rivera wished to display, his intentions may have backfired on him instead. He had shared the photo to his 61,000 followers, which garnered more than 13,000 likes, but reactions on social media showed that there were also scores who did not approve of that supposedly momentous parenting moment.
There were those who regarded his actions as “irresponsible” and “reckless” through a variety of tweets.
There were tweets in Spanish that expressed disgust: “I live in a country where exposing a baby to a bull and showing him animal abuse is referred to as tradition.”
Yet another comment went, “The life of his daughter obviously doesn’t matter to him, let alone animal’s lives.”
Another critic had also hit two birds with one stone: “This has nothing to do with the art of bullfighting. This is a question of putting a child at risk.”
Spain’s Equality Minister Maria Jose Sanchez could not have put it any better with her analogy: “A fireman wouldn’t dream of taking a child to put out a fire, nor would a football player run around with a child in his arms during a match.”
The worldwide reach of the issue sparked British comedian and animal rights campaigner Ricky Gervais’ own tweet: “Mental, dangerous, and cruel. With or without a baby.”
The Spanish animal right group PACMA stressed a point well enough: that Rivera was far from setting a good example on how children should respect animals.
The uproar was enough to issue numerous reports against Rivera to the child protection agency in Andalusia, and the matter is being investigated.
Andalusian authorities, to note, do not share Rivera’s sentiments behind his motives, saying that they “totally rejected” his actions which merit prosecution. Furthermore, a statement in Spanish from the ombudsman’s office was as follows: “We hope that such behavior is not repeated and that social media reaction ensures that it is not accepted as normal.”
Despite such a huge array of criticism, Rivera still had his own row of support from the Spain Bullfighter Union and his fellow bullfighters. A dozen or so of these matadors posted photos on social media with their own small sons, daughters, and nephews in their arms, each facing a charging bull.
The caption of matador Israel Lancho says, “Report me as well. For the love of god, so much hypocrisy and so much ignorance. Keep your spirits up, @Paquirri74.”
Another matador, Manuel Diaz, had captioned his photo with, “Where is the problem of teaching our children about a profession that we love and is full of values?”
Rivera himself told The Guardian that he still had his daughter’s welfare in mind. “There is no safer place for her to be than in my arms.” He may have too boldly said these words; Rivera himself had been gorged by bull last year, and had to take a break from the profession while he recovered. His own father, Francisco Rivera Perez, known as “Paquirri,” met his end in the bullfight ring in 1984, when he was only 36 years old.
Parenting is, indeed, about values, but what are the values we choose to pass on to our children? Traditions are about legacy, but which legacy would remain intact in these changing times?
The world has been working on the rights of children as well as animals, and an incident such as this can make minds wonder, once more, about our confusing society.
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