Ole! say activists as Catalonia first to ban 'cruel' bullfighting
CATALONIA has voted to become the first Spanish region to ban bullfighting, striking a blow to aficionados of the most emblematic and controversial of Spanish traditions.
The Catalan regional parliament yesterday outlawed the spectacle on the grounds of cruelty, in a move that animal rights activists hope will be repeated across Spain.
Campaigners hailed the ban, which was passed by 68 votes to 55 with nine abstentions, as a historic victory and claimed that it signalled the beginning of the end of Spain's "national fiesta".
It comes at a time of strife for Spain's bullfighting industry, which has been hit hard by falling attendance and the deepening economic crisis.
Deborah Parris, a spokesperson for the anti-bullfighting group Prou! ( Enough!), said: "Today five centuries of cruelty have ended because the people of Catalonia wanted it. They recognised that, whatever the tradition, it was cruel and had no place in the 21st century."
The group, which forced the vote after presenting a petition signed by 180,000 Catalan citizens to the parliament in Barcelona, issued a statement saying: "It has created a precedent that we hope will be replicated in other democratic parliaments, in those regions and countries where such cruel bullfights are still allowed."
Interest in bullfighting has been on the wane in the north-eastern region since its heyday in the 1950s and only one of Barcelona's three bullrings still stages fights although it struggles to fill the seats.
At an average bullfight, staged on Sundays during the summer months, barely a third of the 19,000 seats are sold. Tourists brought by bus from the Costa Brava often outnumber locals.
Across the rest of Spain, where leading matadors command the same respect and attention as footballers, bullfighting is still popular, especially in Madrid and Andalusia.
But recent years have seen a change in attitude, marked by a fall in attendance and state television dropping its live broadcasts of top bullfights.
Last year the number of bullfights staged nationwide fell to 1,848 from 2,622 in 2008.
Aficionados of bullfighting, which is not considered a sport in Spain and instead is covered in the culture pages of daily newspapers, insist it must be allowed to continue. "It's not a cruel show. It's a show that creates art: where you get feelings and a fight between a bull and person, where the person or the bull can lose their life," argued Serafin Marin, a matador.
The ban will be introduced from January 1, 2012. Those who work in the bullfighting industry in Catalonia have warned they now face losses of €400m. (©Daily Telegraph, London)