Bullfighting Bends Rules for Fresh New Faces
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


New Zealand Herald
April 2009

A teenage torero lies soaked in blood in his sequined suit, the latest victim of a controversial craze for child bullfighters sweeping Latin America.

Jairo Miguel, 14, was gored in the thorax and had his lung punctured by a 408kg bull in Mexico City.

"I'm dying, I'm dying," he cried as he was carried from the ring. A bull, named Hidrocalido, lifted the slightly built Miguel into the air, carrying him several meters on one of its horns, during the fight on Sunday. Surgeons said the horn came within a couple of centimeters of Miguel's heart.

One of the youngest matadors in the world when he started fighting in Mexico two years ago, Miguel sought to evade the ban on child matadors in his native Spain, where 16 is the minimum age to face a bull. Matadors must be 18 before they can kill an animal.

Many young Spanish prodigies get around the rules by appearing in bullfights in Latin America, where the fashion for child toreros has become increasingly popular in the past decade.

The youngest on record was Rafita Mirabal, who was only 8 when he faced calves hundreds of kilograms heavier than him near Mexico City in 2005.

But the fad has been attacked by anti-bullfighting groups, doctors and child protection groups. Maria Lopes, of the International Movement Against Bullfights, said parents and governments that allowed children to fight bulls should be held responsible.

"Children, many from poor families, are seduced into the world of bullfighting by promises of fame, glory and above all money," she said. "What happened to Jairo Miguel is lamentable but it is the result of laws which allow children to take part in bullfights."

Dr. Luis Romero, who operated on Miguel at the Aguacalientes Guadalupe Clinic, said: "He was lucky, if you can call somebody who has been gored by a bull lucky." He added that if the cut had been 2cm closer to his heart "this surely would have been a catastrophe".

However, some doctors see nothing wrong in children facing four-ton bulls. Dr. Carlos Hernandez Sanchez, who treated Miguel in the ring, said: "These are injuries which can happen. He is a great bullfighter."

Inaki Negrete, of the Mexican Association of Fighting Bull Breeders, said the responsibility for young bullfighters rested with their families, who often encouraged their sons.

Miguel's father, Antonio Sanchez Caceres, a well-known matador, accompanied Miguel to Mexico from Spain and was in the ring when he was hurt. The parents were not available for comment.

The young matador once confessed he cried before a fight, out of nerves.

Juan Carlos Lopez, of the Aguacalientes ring where Miguel was injured, said even younger fighters were present. He refused to give their ages.

Toreros, often from bullfighting families, are brought up in what is considered a national sport in Spain. It is less popular in Latin America.

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