The embarrassing experience with a calf in a bull ring recounted in the May 10 Travel section led to the writer's admiration for the "raw courage" of the torero who earns his living fighting adult bulls in the public arenas of Spain. I have no doubt that her experience was frightening -- I, for one, would not have wanted to trade places with her -- but she may not realize that bulls used in professional bullfights undergo a great deal of "preparation" before being released in the arena.

This preparation includes not only irritations to enrage the bull but also injuries to debilitate him. For example, petroleum jelly on the eyes blurs the animal's vision; a stinging substance rubbed on the legs interferes with his balance; and a needle stuck into his genitals causes severe pain. Before the bullfight, the animal is held in darkness; once released, he runs toward the light he sees far ahead, at the arena, smashing into a door that closes just prior to his arrival. Finally in the ring, the bull is taunted and prodded by horseback-riding "picadors" before the bullfighter emerges on foot to finish a job started long before he entered the game.

In his fury, the bull appears to be lively and dangerous, but in reality he has been placed at a considerable disadvantage to the person who opposes him. By treating the bull with irritations that are invisible to the audience, workers behind the scenes at the bullfight create the image of a courageous, solitary man set against a mean, crazed animal, when in fact the situation is reversed. Christine M. Jackson Bethesda

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