Tradition or act of cruelty? Spanish or Catalan custom? These two questions were answered today by the people of Catalonia – or rather, by their Parliament, the result of a petition taken to the legislative assembly with 180,000 signatures calling for the abolition. The result has brought about mixed feelings in Catalonia in particular and Spain in general.
The bullfighting ban in Catalonia comes into effect in January 2012. Is this the first in a wave of campaigns which will ban the “corrida” (bullfight) in the whole of Spain? Tensions are high, arguments are heated in this country, where the ancient tradition of fighting the bull employs thousands of people directly or indirectly.
Those who support the bullfight claim that it is an ancient tradition and part of Spain’s culture. The “corrida” itself is packed with symbolism: the bull is black, symbolizing evil so it is also a fight of good against evil, of God against the Devil, man against beast, ingenuity and bravery against the elements. It is a spectacle of courage against brute force, skill over fury, David against Goliath. Red (blood, wine and life, symbolized by the cape) against black (death, negativity…the bull).
However, those who claim it is an outdated and barbaric act harping back to Roman times, to panem et circenses, to sacrifices in the amphitheatre, can see little difference between this weighted pseudo-fight where the bull has little or no chance from the second it steps into the ring, and the act of throwing Christians to the lions two thousand years ago.
The vote in the Catalonian Parliament was not one-sided: the two main political parties suspended party politics and allowed a vote of conscience, the result being 68 votes cast in favour of the ban, 55 against and nine abstentions.
The petition calling for the ban was organized by the animal rights group Prou! (“Enough”) and claimed that the practice was no longer popular among the Catalan population, stating that this cruel spectacle is unacceptable in today’s world. Critics claim that the vote was more concerned with electioneering, garnering the pro-Catalan independence vote, than any real desire to vote on the issue.
However, the Canary Isles became the first Spanish region to ban the Corrida in 1991 and several groups have been campaigning against the bullfight for over a decade in Spain as a whole, and not just in Catalonia. ACTYMA, Associacion Contra la Tortura Y Maltrato Animal (Accociation Against Torture and Bad treatment of Animals), is one of these and its President Arturo Perez hails today’s decision as “a historic day, comparable to the abotiltion of slavery …and demonstrates that Spain is coming out of popular ignorance which has predominated in this country, in which people justify atrocities with pride, which disqualifies and brutalizes Spain totally”.
Similar animal rights groups are campaigning in Latin American countries where the bullfight is popular (mainly Mexico and Peru) and also in Portugal and France, where the bull is led, stabbed and tortured, but not killed in the ring.