Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

A Case Study on Moral Disengagement and Rationalization in the Context of Portuguese Bullfighting

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

A Case Study on Moral Disengagement and Rationalization in the Context of Portuguese Bullfighting

Article excerpt


Cultural change and lifestyle transformations call into question human-nonhuman relations and the cultural heritage that is sometimes used to justify archaic practices, for example, eating meat and bullfighting among many others. Bullfighting has, however, lost much of its popularity as an effect of a growing awareness in the animal rights and welfare fields (Cordeiro-Rodrigues 2015; Donaldson and Kymlicka 2013; Beilin 2012). Some examples of the drop in popularity of this practice can be found in countries such as Portugal, Spain and South Africa. In Portugal, there was an almost 50% decrease in the number of bullfights between 2000 to 2013 due to lack of demand (Inspeccao Geral das Actividades Culturais 2016). In Spain, the Catalan demand for independence from Spain has been coupled with an anti-bullfighting sentiment, whereby the autonomous government of Catalonia has attempted to make a law prohibiting the practice in the region (Beilin 2012; Lelieveldt 2016). In South Africa, there is growing opposition to the bullfighting practice known as UKeshwama on the grounds of it being inhumane (Rautenbach 2011; Horsthemke 2015).1

A factor that has strongly influenced this anti-bullfighting sentiment has been a change in lifestyle. Most particularly, bullfighting is, generally speaking, a rural practice and the urbanization of lifestyles and behavior has led to a growth in bullfighting being rejected (Beilin 2012; Basta 2014). Moreover, since the 70's there has been increasing concern regarding animal welfare, with more individuals becoming vegan and vegetarians (Donaldson and Kymlicka 2013); this, in turn, has led to a greater opposition to practices that are understood as involving cruelty to animals, such as bullfighting. Additionally, various works undertaken in comparative psychology, ecology and nutrition have strongly advocated for a change from an omnivorous diet to a vegan or vegetarian one, influencing many people in terms of opposing the human use of animals (Adams 2011; Mitchell 2011; Craig, Mangels, and the American Dietetic Association 2009; Gullone and Arkow 2012). In short, these changes have led to a reconsideration of the role of tradition and to a high level of skepticism regarding bullfighting.

On top of this, in 2015, the European Parliament voted for an amendment to stop over €100 million in EU agricultural subsidies from being used to raise bulls for bullfights. Additionally, in a number of different EU countries, such as Italy and the Netherlands, bullfights have been abolished and subsequently deleted from the list of cultural heritage activities.

On the grounds of this growing opposition to bullfighting, we developed desk-based qualitative research on bullfighting in Portugal. Accordingly, this paper will discuss the bullfighting discourse of Prótoiro (the Federaçao Portuguesa das Associaçöes Taurinas), which is the Portuguese federation for bullfighting and bullfight related events, using critical discourse analysis and neutralization theory as our theoretical approach. We will also discuss data collection and analysis as well as the social and legal context of bullfighting. In sections 2 and 3 we will discuss how the discourse used by bullfighting supporters can be understood using the techniques of neutralisation, whilst in section 4 we will discuss the cultural and legal context of Portuguese bullfighting. In particular, the Prótoiro discourse engages in denial of injury (section 5), appeal to higher authorities and loyalties (section 6) and condemnation of the condemners (section 7).

The Theory and Research Question

With the aim of theoretically framing the research, critical discourse analysis and neutralization theory have been combined. Critical discourse analysis is a form of investigation which uses a critical analysis of the language under investigation. It focuses on the social, cultural and historical contexts of communication and meanings, especially those meanings implicitly embedded in the discourse. …

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