The final third of the bullfight is the killing stage, also called the tercio de muleta. After the lengthy cape and picador stages, the bull is worn down, hurt and “ready” to be killed. To initiate the kill, the matador advances with a red cape and sword, which he will plunge into the bull’s back. Once the bull falls to the ground, an assistant will run to cut its throat. The event’s highest official may then bestow the bull’s ear or hoof on the most brave and talented matadors.
While bullfighting has found a home in Spain for thousands of years, modern times threaten the tradition’s existence for many reasons. Once a primary form of entertainment for many Spaniards and tourists alike, bullfighting now competes with modern technology like television and the internet, both of which have provided alternative–and more humane–forms of fun for a cheaper price. Attacks and protests from animal rights activists also continue to weaken the sport’s place in society.
While many strongly oppose the tradition of bullfighting, others fiercely support the sport as an integral component of Spain’s history. Supporters of the tradition revere the sportsmanship, class and strength of the matador, and find that the symbolic tradition of man facing death transcends the bullfighting ring.