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Proposal to ban bullfighting to be voted on by lawmakers in Catalonia


MADRID — Catalonia could become the first mainland Spanish region to ban bullfighting in a local parliamentary vote this Wednesday that has pitted animal rights activists against fans of the centuries-old national symbol.

The bill went to Parliament after 180,000 Catalans signed a petition circulated by anti-bullfighting group Prou! (Enough!), which argues that bullfights constitute cruelty to animals.

In December the parliament voted 67 to 59 against to take the citizens' petition under consideration, and the final vote Wednesday is expected to echo that outcome as lawmakers of all stripes, from Socialists to conservatives from the nationalist CiU party, support the ban.

"We understand it's a tradition but now is the time to rethink such a bloody act. There are other traditions we can hang on to," Silvia Barquero, spokeswoman for the small anti-bullfighting party.

In the bullring, the torero and his team use capes, lances and darts to master the bull and then eventually kill it with a sword in a highly ritualized performance.

Bullfighting was made illegal in Spain's Canary Islands in 1991.

Under the ban, which would come into effect in 2012, the last active bullring in Catalonia's capital, Barcelona, would shut down as would the remaining few elsewhere in the region.

Opponents say bullfighting involves gratuitous animal suffering that has no place in a modern society.

But supporters say the torero's faceoff with the enraged bull celebrates an emotional reality at the heart of the Spanish character, celebrated in art by the likes of painter Pablo Picasso and poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Those in favor of bullfighting say it creates thousands of jobs and is central to the tourist industry.

In Barcelona, bullfighting crowds have been dwindling for some years, although a top bullfighter such as Jose Tomas can still pack the Monumental bullring with 19,000 spectators.

Jose Tomas was due to fight in Barcelona this summer to boost support for the sport but had to cancel after being badly gored in Mexico in April.

A ban would be a "terrible loss," he told La Razon newspaper.

"To think they can steal a part of all you admire, that is so important to your life, your profession, it's hard," he said.

Commentators and lawmakers deny that the anti-bullfight movement has to do with separatist moves in Catalonia.

"This is not a debate about identity but about values," said Josep Rull, a CiU deputy who supports the ban.

Catalonians say the two issues are not related.

"There is an obsession with turning everything that happens in Catalonia into a political debate. When the Canary Islands banned bullfighting, no one really cared. It was a people's movement not a political one," said Oriol Camps, 37, a notary from the city of Reus in Catalonia.

But Carlos Nunez, president of the Bull Breeders' Union, said he believed it was entirely political.

"The Catalan politicians are using it as an excuse to create an artificial identity," he was quoted as saying by ABC newspaper.

Although bullfighting does not draw the same crowds that football does in Spain, the corrida remains popular in places such as Seville, Madrid and Pamplona where packed annual festivals take place.

Animal rights groups and anti-bullfighting campaigners cite a 2006 Gallup poll that showed 72.1% of Spaniards were not interested in bullfights, a proportion that rose to 81.7% for those age 15 to 24.

Prou! has said that if successful in Catalonia, it will take its campaign to end bullfighting to other regions in Spain.

Lawmakers in Spanish region of Catalonia consider banning bullfights
Artesia bullfight brings wrath of animal welfare group (2009 story by metro reporter Carla Hall)

-- Raquel Castillo, Reuters

Photo: Mexican matador Arturo Macias performs a pass on a bull during a bullfight in Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain, on July 25. Credit: Javier Arroyo / Reuters

Comments () | Archives (7)

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Good for them. Cruelty is not a tradition that warrants protection.

Blood sport, though cruelty, in the case of bullfighting is a thing of great beauty. If one feels the need to protect the dignity of animals they should start by banning factory style livestock production and confinement of hogs, chickens, and cattle. This is a much greater cruelty.

Good, I once went to a corrida in the Plaza de Toros Calafia, and found it repelent...of course I find killing a deer with a high power rifle equiped with a lazer sight a repelent "sport" as well.

I guess if you want to call killing an animal a sport, you should make it more of a contest. In a corrida de toros the bull gore a torero with some frequency, to make hunting a real "sport" a huntsman should go against a grizzly armed only with a spear...you know just to even the odds.

Thomas, seriously, how can you write "Blood sport, though cruelty, in the case of bullfighting is a thing of great beauty" and then look yourself in the face? Do you understand that thinking animal torture is beautiful is completely deranged?

Finding the pain, fear and death of a sentient creature "beautiful" is Lecter-esque. Yes, factory farming kills a lot more animals than bullfighting, but cruelty is ugly, as is the spectacle of a man dressed in an outfit that Liberace would find tacky posing and preening as he sticks swords in that animal. It's disgusting, as is the absence of conscience that can look at it and feel zero compassion for the animal being tortured. Any person who says they find it "beautiful" -- well, I certainly hope you don't live in my neighborhood. I'll be double-locking my doors just in case.

Catalan laws defending all animals except the bull. With today's vote, the bull has the same rights as other animals. For example: dogfighting, not properly care for a pet or an animal abuse are actions that are punishable by law. A step forward in a modern and fair society. Today I feel very proud to be Catalan.

Like I had said before most of the animal rights wackos know absolutely nothing about either hunting or bullfighting. First of all lasers would not be effective in killing deer. They are too far away when shot and the laser would not be visible in the daylight. So that is a stupid comment. Next I bet that you have never gone bow and arrow hunting, if you had you would know the way a deer dies when show with an arrow is by bleeding to death. That is why you wait 30 to 40 minutes after you shoot the deer to let it bleed to death. A high power bullet kills quicker due to high shock that a bullet usually delivers to the nervous system due to its high velocity.

Thanks Steve for that in-depth study on killing animals.

Let's just agree to disagree about what makes someone a "wacko," okay? You think it's "wacko" to argue for Christian principles including standing up to cruelty and unnecessary killing, not to mention pursuing a lifestyle in which one does their best not to hurt living creatures who can feel pain and fear.

You don't just disagree with people who stand up for those who can't protect themselves, it actually actively pisses you off. You are hostile and antagonistic to people simply because they oppose killing an animal for kicks.

You're not going to change, and in the scheme of things it doesn't matter if you do. But I hope people who read this column, who are beginning to think about humane issues, and are grappling with how they feel about humans' cruelty to animals, are able to see, when they read your comment, why animal right activists often garner the response they do. It's not because what we believe is so out of the mainstream. It's because when norms are questioned people like you respond with such fury. You call us wackos, and act like we want to elect a bull president. But, to paraphrase philosopher Tom Regan: We don't want to give animals the vote, we just want people to stop doing such cruel things to them.


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