Spanish court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
The ban on bullfighting in Catalonia, approved by the Parliament in 2010 and effective since 2012, has been suspended this Thursday by the Spanish Constitutional Court (TC). Eight of the eleven magistrates in the court considered that the prohibition to host bullfighting in Catalonia “restricted the citizens’erights and freedoms”. Moreover, the TC emphasised that it is for the Spanish state to regulate this “intangible cultural heritage”nand “guarantee its preservation”. Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Josep Rull, insisted on the executive’s commitment to preventing “shows which imply animal suffering”hfrom taking place in Catalonia and assured that bullfighting won’t return to Catalonia. Bullfighting has been, for centuries, presented by Spanish nationalism as ‘the national fiesta’, the utmost celebration of Spanish pride. In other Autonomous Communities, such as the Canary Islands, bullfighting has been banned for decades.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) annulled this Thursday the prohibition to host bullfighting in Catalonia. Eight of the eleven magistrates in the TC considered that the Parliament “exceeded its competences”tand “restricted the citizens’erights and freedoms”nwhen banning the bullfighting in 2010. In its resolution, the TC considers bullfighting “intangible cultural heritage”nand therefore it is for the Spanish state to regulate “and guarantee its preservation”. In response, the Catalan Government assured that the prohibition in Catalonia will remain “regardless of the TC”eand that there are “many normative mechanisms”ato make the will of Catalans prevail. Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Josep Rull, insisted on the executive’s commitment to preventing “shows which imply animal suffering”hfrom taking place in Catalonia.
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”.