Much to the horror and chagrin of animal rights activists in Spain, bullfighting was given a special status as “an artistic discipline.” The Ministry of Culture was given the task of promoting and protecting bullfighting as a “cultural product.” Proponents lauded the measure, saying that bullfighting was a symbol of Spanish heritage, while critics accused the government of abandoning its commitment to animal rights.
Bullfighting is illegal in Catalonia and the Canary Islands. And many say that bullfighting only exists because it is subsidized by the Spanish taxpayer. Attendance is waning, it faces significant unpopularity among Spanish youth and a poll in a Spanish newspaper last year revealed that 60% of Spanish citizens do not approve of the “sport.” Bullfighting has also been hit hard by the economic crisis.
The decision to officially preserve bullfighting as a cultural artifact, which was announced by Spain’s prime minister, was apparently made to stop more regions from banning it. Animal rights activists, unsurprisingly, are furious. Silvia Barquero, a spokesperson for Pacma, an anti-bullfighting political party, said that the decision to switch responsibility to the ministry of Culture was “complete nonsense…a measure which sends us back to the Middle Ages.”
A middle-aged man and father of one was recently gored to death in a related cultural tradition, Valencia’s “Bulls in the Street” festival. In this festival and others like it, volunteers are chased by a bull through the streets of a town, and people are often killed or injured. Spectators are often hurt during bullfights, which last about 20 minutes and involve a bull’s public death.
Any “sport” that centers around the death of an animal should be outlawed. But, most puzzlingly, bullfighting is becoming less popular and often results in spectators’ death or injury. From this perspective, there seems no logical reason why the government would want to promote or develop such a dangerous practice. Making bullfighting into a cultural product may seem like a smart move for a country seeking tourist revenue, but from an ethical and safety standpoint (i.e. keeping the tourists alive once they’re in the bullfighting ring), it makes absolutely no sense.
Photo from Manuel González Olaechea y Franco via Wikimedia Commons.