Spanish national broadcasting agency banishes bullfights to protect children

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2011:


MADRID–The Spanish national broadcasting agency,  Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española (RTVE)  on January 8,  2011 made official that it will no longer televise bullfights.


RTVE “has not shown bullfighting in any of its programs for months,  citing low audience ratings and budget problems,”  wrote Associated Press correspondent Harold Heckle. RTVE made the de facto exclusion of bullfights from broadcasts official in the 2011 edition of the corporate stylebook.  A chapter titled “Violence against animals” says RTVE has ceased broadcasting bullfighting in part because bullfights are usually held at hours when children are likely to be watching.

“Children can view violence against animals with anxiety and we must therefore avoid it by all means,”  Heckle translated. The RTVE television network debuted in 1948 by nationally broadcasting a bullfight in Madrid.  “At times of political tension the regime of rightwing dictator General Francisco Franco (1939-1975) reputedly programmed bullfights against protests,”  on the theory that people would stay home to watch the bullfights instead of joining the protesters,  recalled Gilles Tremlett of The Independent.

But RTVE quit airing live bullfights in 2007,  “out of concern that the deadly duel between matador and beast is too violent for children,”  reported Daniel Woolls of Associated Press.  A late-night program for bullfighting enthusiasts broadcast pre-taped highlights of bullfights for another two years.  “Of the hundreds of bullfights held during the March-October season,”  noted Woolls,  “state-run TV only tended to broadcast about a dozen.  Pay TV channels and stations owned by regional governments are full of live bullfights.”   But RTVE drew far more viewers.

Bullfighting fell into further disfavor with RTVE about six months later,  on September 13,  2007,  when a a female reporter and a videographer documented a traditional public bullfighting event at Tordesillas,  Castilla y León,  in northern Spain.  As a mob,  many on horseback,  chased,  speared,  and eventually killed the bull,  other participants turned on the RTVE crew.  Video showing the the mob beating the female reporter aired live until the mob destroyed the videographer’s camera.

In neighboring Portugal,  a Lisbon court on May 30,  2008 granted the activist organization ANIMAL an injunction prohibiting the Portuguese 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 teen-agers,” then-ANIMAL president Miguel Moutinho told ANIMAL PEOPLE.

Presenting as witnesses two clinical psychologists,  a biologist,  and a university professor of ethology,  ANIMAL convinced the court that bullfighting broadcasts in prime time violate Portuguese law governing what may be aired when young people are likely to be watching. The RTVE turn away from broadcasting bullfights and the Portuguese injunction both appeared to have ripple effects.  With decreased television exposure,  the number of bullfights held in Spain reportedly fell 30% in 2009. Spanish newspapers reported in February 2010 that Chinese officials had scuttled a plan by matador Manolo Sanchez to build a 7,000-seat bull ring in the Beijing suburb of Huairou.

The Catalan provincial legislature in July 2010 voted to ban bullfighting after January 1,  2012.  The Catalan legislature in August 2010 retreated somewhat by specifically authorizing several non-fatal abuses of bulls traditionally practiced at village festivals,  but the Spanish Senate in October 2010 rejected a motion to seek to have bullfighting listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Nicaraguan legislators cited the Catalan and Spanish Senate actions in September 2010, voting 74-5 to outlaw both bull fights and bull-chasing events.

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