Spanish bullfighting sector vows to fight Catalan ban

29th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Top Spanish bullfighting entrepreneurs and vowed Thursday to fight a decision by Catalonia to ban the bloodsport and campaign to prevent other regions from following.

"We are going to launch a huge battle" against this "outrageous" measure, promoter Luiz Alvarez, a founder of the bullfighting lobby group Mesa del Toro, told AFP.

Catalonia's regional parliament on Wednesday voted to ban bullfighting from January 1, 2012, becoming the first region in mainland Spain to outlaw the centuries-old tradition that has inspired artists from Goya to Picasso.

Alvarez said the ban was "unconstitutional" and the wealthy northeastern region did not have the right to "abolish" bullfights, only to regulate them.

The lobby group will seek to reverse the decision by the Catalan parliament in court.

"We will use all the tools available to us by the law because not everything is lost," Mesa del Toro spokesman Eduardo Martin-Penato told radio Onda Cero.

Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), which sees itself as the defender of a unified Spain, also said it plans to challenge the bullfighting ban in court with pro-bullfighting lobby group PPDF.

PP leader Mariano Rajoy said his party will press Spain's national parliament to declare bullfighting a "cultural heritage" to protect the practice from being banned.

Earlier this year several regional governments headed by the PP, including Madrid and Valencia, announced they plan to declare bullfighting part of their region's cultural heritage in response to Catalonia's drive to ban the ritual.

Catalonia, which has its own language and where many would like to separate from Spain, followed the lead of the Canary Islands which outlawed bullfighting in 1991.

Catalonia's parliament voted to end bullfighting after animal rights activists collected 180,000 signatures for a petition calling for the assembly to decide on the ban.

Animal rights groups say they plan similar initiatives against bullfighting in other regions such as the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, Asturias in the north and Madrid.

In an editorial, the centre-right La Razon daily said measures needed to be taken to "shield" bullfighting from those who want to make the practice "disappear" from Spain.

The conservative ABC daily reported that mobile phone text messages calling for a boycott of Catalan products in protest against the "anti-Spanish" decision to ban bullfights had started to circulate in Spain.

The ban vote came one month after Spain's Constitutional Court struck down several articles of Catalonia's "statute of autonomy", which expanded the already significant regional self-rule powers.

More than one million people marched in support of the deal -- which was approved by the parliament in Madrid in 2006 and endorsed by Catalan voters in a referendum -- in Barcelona on July 10, and many bullfighting fans see the ban as a form of "revenge" on the part of Catalan nationalists.

All 21 lawmakers from the Catalan separatist party ERC voted in favour of the ban as did 32 of the 48 lawmakers from the Catalan nationalist CiU party.

Centre-left daily newspaper El Pais wrote in an editorial however that declining public interest had "condemned" bullfighting to disappear in Catalonia.

© 2010 AFP

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