31 July 2010

"¡Toros No!"

I was overjoyed when the Catalan regional parliament voted to ban bullfighting in Cataluña this week.  Although it is widely reported as a being nationalist gesture of anti-Spanish defiance rather than a success for animal rights (see Colm Tóibín´s interesting and informative article in today´s Guardian), there is no doubt that the tide of public opinion is turning, not only in Europe-facing Cataluña but in "Spanish" Spain as well.  (NB: Cataluña was not the first Spanish autonomous region to ban bullfighting; the Canary Islands did so in 1991.)

Polls indicate that 72% of Spaniards express no interest in bullfighting.  More significantly, while half of the over-65s express interest, less than a quarter of 25-34 year-olds do so.    Attendances are falling and some say it is only kept alive by a small but powerful group of interested parties - not least the breeders of the toros bravos who received vast amounts of state subsidy.

The subsidies started under Franco, who promoted bullfighting as a symbol of Spanish nationalism.  In March 2010 the Mayor of Madrid Esperanza Aguirre's attempt to protect it by requesting UNESCO to award it artistic-cultural status was seen as an attempt to recapture the support of right-wing voters, following a series of corruption scandals in the Partido Popular (PP).  King Juan Carlos supports it, but his wife Sofia, considerably more popular - especially since she burst into the Spanish dressing room after the World Cup Final to shake hands with the team - openly expresses her dislike.  The centre-left PSOE, who form the current government, are officially impartial but continue to subsidise it to the tune of  564 million euros a year. However they did ban live broadcasts of bullfights on State-run Spanish TV in 2007, to protect children from the more violent images, and under-14s are no longer allowed to attend bullfights.

There is a feeling among some ex-pats living in Spain that, although they deplore this barbaric practice, they should not speak out publicly against it because it is part of traditional Spanish culture and as foreigners they have no right to criticise it.  I felt this way myself a couple of years ago.  But I have now come to the conclusion that such respectful silence, however well-meaning, is misplaced and we have a moral responsibility to condemn cruelty wherever it occurs.  Catalan philosopher Jesus Mosterin compared bullfighting to female circumcision in its level of abomination.  I wouldn't go quite that far, but there is no doubt in my mind that  the home-grown protest groups like Antitauromaquia and StopOurShame need all the support they can get, and evidence of international concern gives them a stronger bargaining tool.



Anonymous said...

You dont really explain why it should be banned....

I personally havent got anything against it. The spears are put in the hump on the bulls neck which mainly is fat and has very little nerves. Theres blood yes - but bloodloss isnt painfull, it makes the bull tired before it is finally killed with a sword straight to the heart.

Compared to how many animals are treated when raised for food - and the horrors they sustain during transportation to slaughtery.... the Toros Bravos live the life of kings!

(sorry for my english... its not my first language :) )

Cheers Skye

Claire Lloyd said...

Hello Skye, thanks for your comment. It's nice to know somebody is actually reading the blog!

It is obviously just my personal opinion, but I believe that any activity which involves an animal suffering in order to give pleasure to human beings is wrong. Not just because of the cruelty aspect, but because it degrades human dignity.

I accept the points you make, and I have used them myself in the past. But there is something about the urge to dominate another creature to the point of death that I find abhorrent.

I hope more readers will put their points of view!