Spanish Senate defeats bill to protect bullfighting as cultural heritage

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2010:
(Actual press date November 3.)

MADRID–The Spanish Senate on October 6, 2010 by a 129-117
vote rejected a motion to seek to have bullfighting protected by the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on a
list of monuments, artifacts, and practices defined as part of the
Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The intent of the
bullfighting industry in seeking UNESCO protection of bullfighting
was to thwart legislation prohibiting or restricting traditional
Introducing the motion, Pio Garcia Escudero of the
opposition Popular Party contended that bullfighting is an art.
“Bullfighting is decadence and this decision today means a
popular rejection of this activity,” rebutted Senator Josep
Maldonado of Catalan. The Catalan parliament on July 28, 2010 voted
68-55 to ban bullfighting after January 1, 2012. The Canary Islands
banned bullfighting in 1991, and Extremadura has banned several
practices associated with bullfighting, including tormenting
tethered bulls and setting fire to objects attached to their horns.

Paradoxically, the Catalan parliament not only did not
forbid torturing bulls, but specifically authorized many of the
traditional abuses of bulls in August 2010, apparently to appease
bullfighting enthusiasts ahead of elections set for November 28.
“Run with the bulls, let them tumble into the sea during the
chase, even stick fireworks or flaming wax to their horns-but don’t
kill them,” summarized Associated Press writer Daniel Woolls of the
August legislation. The Convergence and Union parties defended the
August law as an attempt to protect bulls by limiting how long they
may be harassed in spectacles, by requiring that veterinarians
examine them afterward for signs of injury or stress, and by
prohibiting participation by children under 14 years of age.
Only the Initiative for Catalan Party opposed the legislation
and sought to ban spectacles involving bulls altogether.
“The Senate rejected the measure largely because it does not
have the authority to approve bullfighting as an ‘item of cultural
interest’ and believes that the issue has to be decided by each of
Spain’s autonomous communities,” reported Wang Guanqun of the Xinhua
News Service.
China has taken an interest in the rise of opposition to
bullfighting in Spain because of repeated efforts by bullfighting
promoters to expand Spanish and Portuguese-style bullfighting into
China, under cultural pretexts. Bullfights have several times been
scheduled in Beijing and Shanghai, but apparently only one has
actually been held, in Shanghai in 2004. Public opinion polls have
showed since 2000 that more than two-thirds of Beijing and Shanghai
residents oppose the introduction of bullfighting. Bullfights would
be banned, along with other forms of animal fighting, by a draft
national anti-cruelty law which has been widely discussed during the
past two years in state media. (See page 1.)
Organized political opposition to bullfighting has increased
in other parts of Spain, following passage of the Catalan ban on
lethal bullfights. In Castilla y Leon the Socialist Party has
committed to prohibiting bullfighting, if elected, including events
such as Toro de la Vega festival, held every second Tuesday of
September since at least 1453. In this event, staged as a tourist
attraction, mounted lancers chase a bull through the streets of the
fortified older part of the city, across a bridge over the River
Duero and into a lightly forested plain where the bull is speared.
Nacho Paunero, president of the animal rights group El
Refugio, told media this year that opinion polls it has commissioned
show that 76% of the Castilla y Leon public believe that such events
should be ended.
Response to passage of the Catalan bullfighting ban in France
is mixed, David Chazan of BBC News reported on October 31, 2010.
“French animal welfare groups have been stepping up their campaign to
get bullfighting outlawed in France as well,” Chazan noted, “but
some towns in the south are planning to stage more bullfights because
they’re hoping to attract fans from Spain.”

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