MEPs from the main parties in the European Parliament defend Catalonia’s right to ban bullfighting
The ruling by the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) to possibly reverse the bullfighting ban in Catalonia has surprised many of the representatives in the European Parliament. Interviewed by the CNA, MEPs from the main political parties in the EuroChamber expressed their views on bullfighting and commented on Catalonia’s wish to keep the prohibition. Bullfighting is “unnecessary cruelty” rather than “culture”, stated European People’s Party (EPP) MEP, Sirpa Pietikainen and expressed his strong opposition to it being supported by EU funds. In a similar sense, Iva Vajgl, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe considered it “anachronist” for Spain to promote bullfighting and described it as “a very cheap and populist art of entertainment”. European United Left MEP, Stefan Eck, noted that “there is a political interest behind” the TC’s intention to reverse the ban in Catalonia and encouraged Catalans to “stand up and demonstrate for their rights”.
Brussels (CNA).- MEPs from the main political parties represented in the European Parliament have defended Catalonia’s right to keep the ban on bullfighting, after this week the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) announced that the prohibition could be reversed. European United Left MEP, Stefan Eck, noted that “there is a political interest behind” the TC’s intention to reverse the ban in Catalonia and encouraged Catalans to “stand up and demonstrate for their rights”. According to European Peoples’ Party (EPP) MEP, Sirpa Pietikainen, bullfighting is “unnecessary cruelty” rather than “culture” and it shouldn’t under any circumstance be supported by EU funds. In a similar sense, Iva Vajgl, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, considered it “anachronist” for Spain to promote bullfighting and described it as “a very cheap an populist art of entertainment”.
The European Parliament has repeatedly voted against funding the breeding of bulls for bullfighting and has amongst its members many MEPs which have actively fought to abolish this activity.
“Bullfighting has to stop”, European United Left MEP, Stefan Eck told the CNA. He considered it not only “wrong” but also “terrible” for the TC to consider reversing the ban in Catalonia. Moreover, he saw it as “obvious” that there is a “political intention” behind this attempt “to take away the Catalan people’s rights”. “I’d be glad if Catalans would stand up and demonstrate for their rights”, he said.
According to European People’s Party (EPP) MEP, Sirpa Pietikainen bullfighting is “unnecessary cruelty” rather than “culture”. She also expressed her firm opposition to support “this kind of activity with EU funds”. “I hope that this funding can be finally ended” she said and also expressed her “congratulations to Catalonia for the decision they have made so far”.
In a similar sense, Greens/European Free Alliance MEP, Indrek Tarand stated that although “the tradition is an internal matter of Spain”, bullfighting “shouldn’t be subsidised by EU money”. He emphasised that “this is what the majority of MEPs believed and showed in voting”. According to Tarand, Catalonia’s decision to ban bullfighting is “very interesting” and if he was from Madrid, he said, he would “consider it very seriously”.
“I was really glad when Catalonia decided to ban bullfighting”, European Conservatives and Reformists MEP, Jacqueline Foster, told the CNA. “I can’t believe that in the Spain of the 21st century such a barbaric activity can be justified by cultural means”. Foster also expressed her wish for this activity to be considered “illegal, as are other kinds of animal abuse activities carried out in Spain”.
Former Slovenian Minister for Foreign Affairs, MEP Ivo Vajgl, assured he is “strongly against this tradition” and considered it “anachronistic” for Spain to keep it. “The Romans were killing people for fun; I don’t think that it is correct nor acceptable that Spain is killing animals for fun”, he said and described bullfighting as a “very cheap and populist art of entertainment”.
In a similar sense, former Swedish Minister for Culture, Social democrat MEP Marita Ulvskog, considered bullfighting “a cruel and inappropriate way to treat animals”. However, she admitted that it is a “controversial” debate since it is linked to a cultural tradition in Spain.
Bullfighting was effectively banned in Catalonia in 2012
The Catalan Parliament discussed the ban as a citizen petition was received that obliged the Parliament to at least discuss admitting the Popular Legislative Initiative. The civic platform 'Prou!' (meaning “Enough!” in Catalan) presented a Popular Legislative Initiative to the Catalan Parliament backed by 180,000 signatures from citizens to ban bullfighting in Catalonia. The platform proposed amending the Animal Protection Law which excluded bullfighting within its protection.
On the 18th of December 2009, the Catalan Parliament agreed to analyse the possible modification of the Animal Protection Law, despite a rejection made by the People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) and the Anti-Catalan Nationalism Party (Ciudadanos). The new law was discussed during the first half of 2010 in a Parliamentary committee, where there were held hearings from different stakeholders, such as bullfighting businessmen, bullfighters, fans and animal rights associations.
The amendment was voted upon on the 28th July 2010. It was approved by 68 votes, an absolute majority. 55 MPs voted against it, 9 abstained and 1 was absent. The prohibition did not come into force until the 1st of January 2012, as politicians agreed on a year-and-a-half period to allow the industry to adopt the needed means.
A controversial debate
Bullfighting has been, for centuries, presented by Spanish nationalism as “the national fiesta”, the maximum celebration of Spanish pride. Bullfighting was and still is extremely popular in Andalusia and Castile, with large crowds attending in Madrid and Seville. However, in Catalonia, bullfighting has been in the last decades a marginal activity, which was popular at the beginning of the 20th century but slowly vanished, especially during the last 30 years. Furthermore, the Franco dictatorship made use of bullfighting as a way to spread a homogeneous image of Spain and Spanish nationalism, both abroad and within the State; an image that still persists throughout the entire world. Many Catalans thus perceive bullfighting as an imposed tradition, intimately associated with Spanish nationalism.
Bullfighting is also an industry, with many jobs involved, especially in the centre, south and west of Spain, where bulls are raised and where most of the bullfighting arenas are located. Arenas are also located along the Mediterranean shore as they are a huge tourist attraction. However, in Catalonia by the time of the prohibition debate no bulls were being raised in the territory and only one arena remained active, located in Barcelona. In addition, many claim that bullfighting is an art, pictured by artists such as Goya and Picasso. The last argument by bullfighting supporters is the tradition, which is deeply rooted in some parts of Spain.
Catalonia has a tradition of spectacles using animals, many coming from medieval times. Most of them were banned many years or even decades ago, such as throwing a live goat out of a bell tower once a year. The only ones that remained at the time of the 2010 debate was bullfighting and 'correbous', which consists of making a bull run through the middle of a crowd, sometimes with something attached to its horns. In 'correbous', which are popular in Southern Catalonia, the animal is not harmed physically, but is exposed to a highly stressful environment. An amendment of the law some years ago ensured the continuing of 'correbous' only in villages with a clear and rooted tradition, most of them in the Ebro river delta area.
An appeal presented by PP in 2010
Spain’s Conservative People’s Party (PP) presented an appeal against the law approved by the Parliament in July 2010 which foresaw banning bullfighting in Catalonia from the 1st January 2012 onwards. Its main argument at the time was that the Catalan law “invaded the Spanish State’s competences” and “restricts citizens’ rights and freedoms”. According to the PP, the Catalan law went against 10 articles of the Spanish Constitution and broke “basic constitutional principles relating to access to culture”.