Catalan bans bullfighting Lawmakers reject cultural defense

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2010:


BARCELONA–Voting 68-55 to ban
bullfighting after January 1, 2012, the Catalan
parliament on July 28, 2010 resoundingly and
deliberately rejected defenses of bullfighting as
central to Catalonian culture.
“Let us create a more humane, more
responsible society. This could be our
contribution to the next generation,” urged
Catalan separatist party leader Joan Puigcercos
in a speech to the assembly members just before
the vote.
The bullfighting ban took the form of a
motion removing from the Catalan animal
protection law an exemption for bullfighting and
similar “cultural” exhibitions.

Banning bullfighting, Puigcercos said,
was strictly to prevent “the suffering of the
animal. That is the question, nothing more.
All biologists say,” Puigcercos emphaszied,
“that there is pain, much pain, for the bull.”
Legislator Josep Rull, speaking for the
Catalan nationalist coalition Convergence &
Union, compared the bullfighting ban to the 2004
passage of the Hunting Act in Britain. “Was
that an exercise in rejecting British and
Scottish roots? No,” Rull said. The issue,
Rull elaborated to Associated Press, was simply
that “the suffering and death of a living being
cannot be turned into a public spectacle.”
“It is like the ban on fox hunting in the
U.K.,” agreed T-Systems communications executive
Jordi Casamitjana to BBC reporter Sarah
Rainsford. “Society has evolved, and that’s all
about losing bad things. Fortunately, Catalan
politicians have seen they need to evolve too,
so they don’t remain relics–like these
“This is not about politics and Catalan
identity,” said José Ramón Mallén of the
Madrid-based Fundación Equanimal, “but about
ethics and showing that it’s simply wrong to
enjoy watching an animal get killed.”
Both Convergence & Union and the
Socialist Party, which favors continued ties
with Spain, allowed their members of parliament
to vote their conscience, instead of in accord
with party platforms.
Supporters of bullfighting insisted that
the ban was imposed as an assertion of Catalonian
identity. The People’s Party of Catalonia,
“which is fervent about the idea of a unified
Spain run from Madrid, said it will fight the
ban,” reported Associated Press writers Joseph
Wilson and Daniel Wools. Within days national
People’s Party lawmaker Juan Manuel Albendea
introduced a federal bill which would repeal the
Catalan ban on bullfighting and a similar ban in
effect in the Canary Islands since 1991, and
would prevent other regions from adopting
anti-bullfighting legislation. Parliamentary
debate on the federal bill is scheduled for
September 2010.
“If the bill fails, the opposition will
file a lawsuit with Spain’s highest court to
repeal the Catalan law on grounds that regions
have jurisdiction to oversee bullfighting but not
ban it,” reported Associated Press writer Alan
Proposals to federally protect
bullfighting are opposed by Socialist Party prime
minister Jose Luis Zapatero, and are unlikely
to advance while the Socialist Party is in power,
assessed Clendenning. But, while not obligated
to call an election until 2012, the Socialist
Party has slipped behind the People’s Party in
recent polls.
“The vote to ban bullfighting came amid
intense political bickering in the wake of a
contested ruling in June 2010 by Spain’s
constitutional court on a Catalan autonomy
charter,” observed Marcelo Aparicio of Agence
The autonomy charter, “approved by
Catalonia’s 5.5 million voters as well as the
Spanish Parliament, expanded the already
significant Catalonian powers of regional
self-rule,” Aparicio explained. “The court
endorsed most of the charter but struck out a
legal claim to nationhood, among other points
that Catalan separatists demanded.”
Certainly Catalonian nationalism was
involved in the rejection of bullfighting.
Rejoiced Jordi Margalef Turell of the Catalonian
nationalist organization Catalunya Accio,
“Catalonia has suppressed a barbaric Middle Age
hobby, disguised as ancestral culture but in
fact, used as an instrument of unification by
Spain. Take a look at the Spanish newspapers,”
Turell challeged. “Their headlines point more at
the identity threat, and the possibility that
Catalonia may become independent, than the
defense of bullfighting itself. What could be
more excluding, racist, and degrading,” Turell
asked, “than condemning a whole nation to have
to hold, and enjoy, performances like men
teasing, stabbing, torturing and finally
killing a drugged, horn-sawed and stunned
Spanish-style bullfighting evolved during
the eight-century War of Reconquest, 711-1492,
in which Christian rulers retook the Iberian
peninsula from Moorish rule. The first
recognized “corrida” in an enclosed ring was held
as part of the coronation ceremonies for King
Alfonzo VIII in 1133.
Bullfighting remained chiefly a pursuit
of the Spanish ruling class until the 18th
century. Rising then to mass popularity,
bullfighting declined under humane criticism in
the early 20th century. Traditionalists insisted
that bullfighting could not survive a 1930 law
requiring picadors’ horses to wear skirts and
padding that were touted as protection against
goring. But as Ernest Heming-way explained in
Death In The Afternoon, the garments mostly just
kept gored horses from spilling their intestines
in front of tourists.
The dictator Francisco Franco subsidized
and promoted bullfighting during his 40-year
tenure, 1936-1975, repressing opposition. But
dissent re-emerged as soon as Spanish citizens
won the freedom to voice it.
“As far back as 1909, Barcelona hosted
Spain’s first anti-bullfighting protest,”
recalled Alasdair Fotheringham, Madrid
correspondent for The Independent, of London.
“Over the past three decades, bullring after
bullring has closed in major Catalan towns such
as Gerona, Lloret de Mar and Tarragona, and in
Barcelona only one of the original three rings
remains. In 1994 the city symbolically declared
itself an anti-bullfighting city, and by 2004
more than 80% of Catalans were opposed to the
practice,” Fotheringham summarized.
Animal advocates organized by the
Barcelona-based Plataforma Prou had already
collected 180,000 signatures on a petition
calling on the Catalan parliament to ban
bullfighting six months before the June 2010
Spanish constitutional court ruling inflamed the
nationalistic aspect of of the campaign.
As Barcelona, the Catalan capital, is
the second-largest city in present-day Spain,
and Catalan is the most affluent region, the
Catalonian ban challenges the notion that
bullfighting is culturally representative of
Spain itself.
Valencia and Murcia have passed
legislation recognizing bullfighting as a
protected heritage, but opposition to
bullfighting has gained momentum throughout
Spain–even in Madrid, where the major bullring
in the city reportedly sold 19,000 season tickets
in 2009, compared to about 400 sold at the last
Barcelona bull ring.
Only about 60% of Madrid residents
express opposition or indifference toward
bullfighting in opinion polls, compared with
more than 70% nationwide and 80% in Catalan, but
the Madrid animal advocacy organization Refuge
quickly collected 50,000 signatures on a recent
petition asking for bullfighting to be banned.
“We are euphoric. It’s the beginning of
the end. We want debate in Madrid now,” Refuge
president Nacho Paunero told Wilson and Wools of
Associated Press.
“The Catalan ban-the first in mainland
Spain-comes at a time of decline for
bullfighting,” assessed Raphael Minder of The
New York Times. “Reliant on state subsidies,
bullfighting has suffered heavily from forced
cuts in public financing. The impact has been
particularly felt in smaller towns, where
indebted local administrations have had to cancel
bullfights, once the focus of annual
festivities. The number of bullfighting fiestas
has dropped by almost a third from 2007.”
Wrote Anna Winter for The Guardian of
London, “Though King Juan Carlos is known to be
an aficionado, Queen Sofia recently revealed a
royal discrepancy: she is against the bullfight.
‘Making a bull suffer in the plaza for the
public’s enjoyment while a few people do
business? Let them do what they want, but I
won’t share it.’
“Barely a weekend goes by during the
bullfight season without a demonstration outside
some city bull ring,” Winter continued. In
Coria, in the western region of Extremadura,
bull runs at the end of June traditionally
featured an ‘entertainment’ in which coloured
darts were lobbed at the bulls. Last year a
group of antis were instrumental in bringing
about a municipal ban on this practice.”
Winter credited Leonardo Anselmi of the
Plataforma Prou with transforming opposition to
bullfighting in Catalan, rallied for 34 years by
the Asociación Defensa Derechos Animal, from a
protest movement into a political force.

International implications

Anselmi looked ahead. “The suffering of
animals in the Catalan bullrings has been
abolished once and for all. It has created a
precedent we hope will be replicated by other
democratic parliaments internationally,” Anselmi
told Winter.
The bullfighting industry has recently
been repeatedly thwarted in attempts to expand
into Russia and China. Even in the existing
bastions of bullfighting the industry is largely
on the defensive. The city of Loja, Ecuador,
for example, in April 2010 declared itself to be
an anti-bullfighting city.
Portuguese culture minister Gabriela
Canavilhas in April 2010 created an agency to
promote bullfighting within the Department of
Culture, despite a march of as many as 4,000
opponents rallied by the organizations ANIMAL and
the Anti-Bullfighting Movement. In May 2008 a
Lisbon court granted ANIMAL an injunction
prohibiting the state-owned television station
RTP from broadcasting bullfights “before 10.30
p.m. and without displaying a sign identifying
the program as violent and capable of negatively
influencing the personality development of
children and teenagers,” then-ANIMAL president
Miguel Moutinho told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
In December 2009 an organization called
the Union of French Bullfighting Cities claimed
it had asked French culture minister Frédéric
Mitterrand to request that the United Nations
Educational, Scientific, & Cultural
Organization grant “Intangible Heritage” status
to bullfighting. On July 10, 2010, however,
Mitterand’s undersecretary Pierre Hanoteaux told
ADDA that such a request had not been received.
A 2007 attempt by the bullfighting
industry to secure protected heritage status from
the European Parliament ended with the passage of
a resolution urging Spain to end bullfighting,
as inconsistent with the commitment of member
nations to provide for the humane treatment and
well-being of animals.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.