One of Spain’s most renowned matadors has come under fire after posting a photo on Instagram showing him fighting a bull while holding his baby daughter.
Francisco Rivera Ordóñez sparked fierce debate after he shared the photo with his 61,000 followers, which has since received 13.4K likes.
“Carmen’s debut, she is the fifth generation which bullfights in our family,” the post read. “My grandfather was bullfighting like this with my father. My father was bullfighting like this with me, and I have done it with my daughters Cayetana and now with Carmen. #prideintheblood”
He then followed it up with a second photograph, saying: “History repeats itself. Long live the best legacy, the feeling, purity, honor.”
Despite Ordóñez sharing what he insists is a revered cultural tradition for matadors, the picture immediately caused an uproar from animal rights activists and concerned parents. Many criticized the celebrated matador’s actions as “irresponsible” and “dangerous.”
One Twitter user wrote: “I live in a country where exposing a baby to a bull and showing him animal abuse is referred to as tradition.” On the other side, a commentator wrote: “The spineless stupidity of some has made Francisco Rivera’s photograph reach the prosecutor’s office and made it act, another stupidity in itself.”
Even famous faces joined the debate, with British comedian Ricky Gervais — a well-known animal rights campaigner — tweeting: “Mental, dangerous & cruel. With or without a baby.”
Mental, dangerous & cruel. With or without a baby. https://t.co/KOEH2ZLEyG
— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) January 26, 2016
Spain’s Equality Minister Maria Jose Sanchez also weighed in on the controversy.
“A fireman wouldn’t dream of taking a child to put out a fire nor would a football player run around with a child in their arms during a match.” And Alfonso Alonso, the country’s acting minister of social security, said that it was “not right in any circumstances to put a child at risk.”
Local media is now reporting that the case has been referred to a local child protection agency in Andalusia for investigation.
However, Ordóñez told the Guardian that his daughter was never in any peril, citing his family’s long history in the bullfighting ring. He insisted: “There is no safer place for her to be than in my arms.”
It was a sentiment shared by others on social platforms, with many calling it an “exaggeration” and likening the perceived danger to that of a parent smoking while driving with a child in the vehicle.
One user @LaAlpaca_Paca wrote: “They should also open an investigation into those fathers who #smoke with their sons in the car. A slight exaggeration in #FranciscoRivera’s case.”
Meanwhile, Spain’s Bullfighters’ Union issued a statement declaring its support for Ordóñez and acknowledging the matador was participating in a long-held community tradition.
— israel lancho (@israellancho) January 25, 2016
The furor spurred other matadors to post pictures in solidarity with the superstar bullfighter. Israel Lancho, a matador from Badajoz, a city in western Spain near the Portuguese border, posted: “Report me as well. For the love of god, so much hypocrisy and so much ignorance. Keep your spirits up @Paquirri74”
Salvador Vega, another bullfighter from Malaga, declared his support along with a photograph. “My support for @Paquirri74 enjoying an unforgettable experience.”
— Salvador Vega (@SvgVega) January 26, 2016
“Where is the problem of teaching our children about a profession that we love and is full of values?” tweeted bullfighter Manuel Díaz El Cordobés.
¿Dónde está el problema de enseñar a nuestros hijos una profesión que amamos y está llena de valores? pic.twitter.com/pYvH3qo9sH
— El Cordobés (@mdelcordobes) January 25, 2016
Despite its historic cultural origins, bullfighting has become something of a political hot potato, with animal rights campaigners working to have the tradition banned.
Catalonia became the second autonomous region in Spain to ban the sport in 2013, two decades after the Canary Islands.