Spanish region takes first step to ban bullfighting

19th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Catalonia's parliament opened the door Friday to a ban on bullfighting in the Spanish region, agreeing to debate the issue at the demand of activists who condemn the traditional spectacle as a form of torture.

Barcelona - Catalonia's parliament opened the door Friday to a ban on bullfighting in the Spanish region, agreeing to debate the issue at the demand of activists who condemn the traditional spectacle as a form of torture.

Animal rights activists, campaigning under the platform "Prou!" or "Enough!" in the Catalan language, collected 180,000 signatures in Catalonia on a petition to outlaw bullfighting in the northeastern region.

The petition calls for a tightening of Catalonia's animal protection law, which excludes bullfights from a ban on the killing or mistreating animals in shows.

Lawmakers in the regional parliament in Barcelona voted 67 to 59 Friday to vote on the petition next year.

It was the first step in a process that could see Catalonia become the first region in Spain, outside of the Canary Islands, to ban the spectacle.

The wealthy region has led opposition to bullfighting, in part due to a desire among some Catalans to strike a separate identity from the rest of Spain.

But polls show rising disinterest in bullfighting throughout Spain, especially among the younger generation, although arenas are regularly filled to capacity for the spectacle, which ends with the death of the bull from a well-placed sword.

Spain's leading daily, El Pais, said bullfighting is also suffering from the economic crisis. It noted that this year there were only 900 corridas in the country, 350 less than last year.

The Prou petition has been the focus an emotional debate throughout country, as well as in France.

The owner of Barcelona's last major bullring, Pedro Baldana, described the Catalan parliament's decision as "an attack on the freedom" of those who love bullfights.

One bull breeder, Victorino Martin, said it was "a very grave error" in favour of a "minority" who reject bullfighting.

On the eve of the vote, about 300 prominent Catalans opposed to a ban published a manifesto calling for the protection of "cultural heritage".

They said they feared outlawing bullfighting could also lead to a ban on the running of the bulls, also popular in parts of the region.

But Prou spokeswoman Anna Mula urged the Catalan lawmakers to end the "torture of animals as a spectacle," arguing that bullfighting is not consistent with "the new values of the 21st century."

"Catalan society is ready for change, for the abolition of bullfighting," Leonardo Anselmi, the head of the Free Animals Association, told a news conference in the Catalan parliament after the vote.

The central government in Madrid said it does not support a ban on bullfighting but would respect any decision made by the Catalan parliament.

The petition has had the backing of British comedy actor Ricky Gervais and former "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson, a longtime champion of animal rights.

French screen goddess turned animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has also appealed for a ban, calling bullfighting "an incredibly sadistic spectacle".

AFP/Marcelo Aparicio/Expatica

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