I have just read this http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=10357 and responded here http://blog.prospectblogs.com/2008/08/27/a-noble-death/
I will freely admit that I am not a philosopher and I do not have time to answer every assertion in the article. I guess my most important question is this: does it even matter whether some people get some aesthetic gratification out of it? Does aesthetic gratification justify inflicting harm on a sentient being who has no choice as to whether he partakes of this spectacle?
If the subject (victim) were human would this article have been written? If so, I think the DSM-IV-TR may have something to say about it, and so may the authorities. If a fight between an animal and a human, where the animal had an equal chance, would be "grotesque", is a bullfight not the same?
And as for the issue of animals not having rights if they cannot be "called upon to uphold those rights for themselves", that is a rather backward notion. Should children and the mentally disabled be denied rights, because they cannot be expected to uphold those rights for themselves? I think that the rational human being is in a position to uphold said rights, and therefore shoulders the responsibility. Yes I do find it somewhat hypocritical that people eat (factory farmed) meat - needless to say I don't - and protest bullfighting, but it can be argued that people need meat. Can the same be said of bullfighting? More importantly, do we have the right to inflict our whims on the animal whether it has rights or not?
As for the comparison between bullfighting and the lion attacking the wildebeest, this seems puerile. It is the nature of a predator to kill and eat prey. But humans can choose which aspects of our nature we express. Again, the bull has no say in the matter.
At any rate I find it sad (and as a psychology student, disturbing) that people consider the torture and death of a sentient being, an aesthetically pleasing spectacle.