Bullfights back on Spanish state TV

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2012:

MADRID--Live bullfights returned to the Spanish state TV network, Corporación de Radio y Televisión Española (RTVE) on September 5, 2012 at 6:00 p.m., the traditional time slot since RTVE debuted by airing a bullfight in 1948.

TVE ended a six-year suspension of live bullfight broadcasts just 18 months after the 2011 updated edition of the corporate stylebook advised in a chapter titled “Violence against animals” that it stopped broadcasting live bullfights in 2007 to avoid upsetting children.

The mention of bullfighting was deleted from the 2012 edition of the stylebook,  published about two months after the pro-bullfighting Popular Party in November 2011 won a majority in the Spanish Parliament. The most conservative of the major Spanish political parties, the Popular Party was founded in 1976 by former supporters of dictator Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975.  The Franco regime reputedly ordered RTVE to broadcast bullfights when facing protests, hoping that potential demonstrators would stay home to watch instead of taking to the streets.

RTVE continued to air pre-taped highlights of bullfights late at night until 2009, but bullfighting enthusiasts were not placated. On September 13, 2007 participants in the Toro de la Vega bull chase at Tordesillas, Castilla y León, in northern Spain turned on a female RTVE reporter, beating her during a live broadcast.  A male videographer documented the attack until the mob destroyed his camera.  The chase ended when the participants, many on horseback, caught and speared the bull to death.

Reputedly held annually since 1453, the 2012 Toro de la Vega was held on September 11. “Scores of animal rights activists gathered at the bull pen to try to prevent the bull’s release,” Agence France Press reported. “Protesters gathered in central Madrid, and about 500 animal rights activists protested in Tordesillas ahead of the tournament. Animal rights group Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal en España said it would file a criminal complaint against the organizers,” Agence France Press added.

Said Reyes Montiel, cofounder of the environmental political party Fundacion Equo, “The Toro de la Vega is one of the cruellest bullfighting festivals in Spain, where they kill the bull with sticks, knives and lances.  It is a spectacle that Equo believes cannot be justified by tradition.  Spanish society has developed, and we should eliminate customs that are no longer appropriate in the 21st century.”

About 60% of the respondents to a 2010 poll commissioned by the Madrid daily newspaper El Pais opposed bullfighting, abolished in the Canary Islands in 1991 and in Catalonia in 2010, with a phase-out ending in January 2012.  The Spanish Senate in October 2010 defeated a Popular Party motion to ask the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to protect bullfighting as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, by a vote of 129-117.   Now that the Popular Party has the parliamentary majority, the motion is likely to be reintroduced.

The return of live bullfights to RTVE may mean relatively little in terms of total broadcast exposure, since RTVE even before 2007 aired only about one bullfight per month.  Pay TV channels and regional government stations air dozens.  But the RTVE bullfights, while drawing poor ratings compared to other RTVE programs, are believed to have reached a wider audience than those aired by other media.

Hindu protest

The RTVE resumption of live bullfight broadcasts drew protest from animal advocates around the world, including Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hindusim.

“We in India probably have the disrepute of torturing Shiva’s vahana the most,” responded Animal Welfare Board of India member and longtime Blue Cross of India patron Chinny Krishna, citing common village fair events including jallikattu, dhiro, manja viratu, bullock cart racing, and races in which a a bull and a horse are tied together to race in pairs. “The bulls may not be killed, but the terror they undergo is the same,” Krishna said. “These events are not just immoral and plain wrong–they are illegal. And yet rogue states like Kerala have officials who give ‘permission’ to hold such events and government ministers who attend and preside over them.  Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs participate.  Probably the only religious group that does not are the Jains.”

Krishna asked Rajan to help pressure India to enforce the laws against bull torture, including a ban on the use of bulls as performing animals issued by former minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh in January 2012.

But bullfighting opponents met another setback on September 21, 2012 when the Constitutional Council of France ruled that bullfighting “does not harm people’s protected constitutional rights,”  and cannot be categorized as cruelty to animals. About 1,000 bullfights per year are held in southern France, especially in Nimes and Aries.  Public opinion polls have shown that from 48% to 67% of French voters would support a ban on bullfighting, BBC Paris correspondent Christian Fraser reported.

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