A few years ago someone posted a photo dubbed Kiss of Judas. And it came with a sad story that caused it to go viral. The photo still shows up today to advertise against the cruel sport of bullfighting. The story behind the photo shows how a photo can be hijacked to tell a story that can’t be further from the truth.
We live in a world were anyone can make up a story that will draw attention to their cause. With the internet being filled with fake news it has become quite challenging to find the truth. And most people don’t even bother to do the research. They just take what is presented to them as truth. And this is exactly what fake news story tellers are counting on.
When I first came across the photo dubbed Kiss of Judas and read the story, I was also first captivated by the story. Which animal lover wouldn’t be. But then, I looked closer at the photo and there was something unusual there, that just did not seem to fit right.
The real story is a story of bravery and in a sense, animal activism. It certainly deserves to be told. But, let’s begin with the viral (false) story.
How the photo dubbed Kiss of Judas became viral
It all started in 2015 when a blogger found the photo together with the story on his Facebook page. In his blog from August 2015 he explains how he had merely used the photo and story as reference to highlight his blog about the suffering of billions of animals. Not to write about bullfighting. This is the false story he received with the photo:
This morning a tragic and heartbreaking story appeared on my Facebook page. Perhaps you’ve seen it reported elsewhere? The picture, dubbed ‘The Kiss of Judas’ by the Spanish newspapers, almost tells the whole story. It shows the breeder of a bull, who had raised and cared for him. Once grown, the animal was sold for bullfighting. As he was in the ring being hideously tortured for the amusement of the sick and mindless spectators, he spied his beloved and trusted ‘friend’ in the crowd and hoping for help and relief, ran to him. The kiss was all he got. The perfidy was complete.
The betrayal of this bull is poignant because of what the photograph captures. It is the precise moment when a helpless creature reaches out to the only being that he believes can, or would want to help him.
But it obviously did not start there. The photo with the story already showed up in 2012 on a European forum site.
The photo did not go viral until 2016. This was when animal rights activists used the photo dubbed Kiss of Judas to create an anti-bullfighting petition. It was quickly picked up by websites to create pages filled with horrific pictures “borrowed” from places such as Wikipedia to complete the story. The headlines and the featured photo always the same: Kiss of Judas.
Some people even used the photo to create memes and posted it on social media.
The photo, together with this story did what it was supposed to do. It refreshed awareness of the horrible plight these bulls have to go through to satisfy the bloodthirsty lust of an ever-cheering crowd. And it got people angry and outraged enough to make the petition go viral.
So, what’s the real story?
Obviously people care enough about animals to make such a story go viral, be it the petition itself, or the memes. So why make up a story such as this one? Why not use the real story behind the photo? Because the real story does not sound sensational enough. It doesn’t make people feel angry and outraged.
This brings me back to what caused me to notice that something just doesn’t look right in that photo.
For one, the message states that the bull noticed his breeder/owner in the crowd. Well, that young man is not standing in the crowd. As a matter of fact, he is standing behind the barrier that provides shelter from the bull for the bullfighters. Each bullfight arena has four of those in front of the actual wooden barrier that encircles the arena.
Second, he is wearing some sort of athletic looking shirt, not the traditional attire of the bullfighters. Which would go with the story of him standing in the crowd and that he is the breeder/owner, not a fighter. But we already established that he is not part of the crowd. And it’s true, he is not a bullfighter. He is a bull-leaper! Wait… what?
Meet the Recortadores
Spain’s tradition of bullfighting is deep-seated and hard to break. Thanks to the Recortadores there is hope that in the future the gruesome and bloody spectacle will be fully replaced by this non-violent bull-leaping. That is if they can finally get the recognition they deserve.
Recortes is practiced in some parts of Spain. Teams of athletes compete at dodging and leaping over bulls. And all without the use of any swords or capes. No animals are harmed in this sport. The bulls are unrestrained and charge at the athletes because, well, that’s what bulls do. It’s in their nature to charge at moving things. Especially if they have been bred to be supercharged, meaning very aggressive.
Now, this bull-leaping sport is not exactly new. It’s been around since the days of the legendary King Minos from Crete’s Minoan civilization. But it has enjoyed a resurgence among young, thrill-seeking Spanish men.
Bull-leapers are bull-acrobats
It does not only take a lot of courage to be on a team of Recortadores. You have to be an athlete to leap over a 1500lb animal with deadly horns that is running straight at you. It also helps to be quick and witty to quickly dodge the bull in the last second, before he can ram you down with his strong head, or pick you up with one of his horns and toss you through the air like a rag doll. Getting gored by a bull would certainly make it on the list of the most excruciating ways to die.
Bull-leaping is a dangerous sport for humans, not for the bulls. Although, so far there have not been any injuries. The young men are professionals and know what they’re doing.
How is it a sport?
Every year teams of recortadores come together at the Plaza de Tores stadium in Valencia to compete for the championship. Each team has 5 to 7 bull-leapers. Inside the arena they take turns to call the bull towards them in order to dodge or leap. Whichever team has the best and most daring athletes win.
This video from 2012 shows the teams in the exact same shirts as the young man in the photo dubbed Kiss of Judas. If you watch the video closely you probably can even see one of the young men showing a strong resemblance with the man in the photo. Further into the video you can even see a black bull like the one in the photo.
I am not saying the photo came from the same time and event as this video. Because I don’t know when or where the photo was taken. I was not able to find a photographer who claimed the photo. Therefor your guess is as good as mine as to exactly when the photo was taken and at which one of their competitions.
The photo dubbed Kiss of Judas needs to be renamed
As you know now, the photo was hijacked to portrait the heartlessness and cruelty of bullfighting and all people associated with it. When in truth, it is the photo of a Recortadore, a bull-leaper, kissing the bull who might’ve helped him win the championship. A kiss to say thank you? Or a kiss to tease? Maybe a kiss to show friendship and respect. We don’t know the reason behind the kiss. What we do know is that it is not a kiss of Judas.
It would be more helpful to abolish the blood sport of bullfighting for good if people would use the photo to create memes that inform the public about bull-leaping. To help this sport to fill up its spectator seats just as much as the bullfighters. To become a serious competition to bullfighting and gradually replace bullfighting altogether.
There is nothing heroic about killing an exhausted, wounded and dying animal. The real heroes are the Recortadores, and it is due time their tickets are sold out and the seats of bullfight events stay empty.
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