The PP takes Catalonia’s bullfighting ban to the Constitutional Court

The Spanish Conservative People’s Party (PP) finally presented an appeal to the Constitutional Court on the Catalan Parliament’s law banning bullfighting in Catalonia, which was approved 3 months ago. The PP is arguing that the law exceeds Catalan competences and enters into the Spanish State’s competences. The PP also says that the law restricts citizen rights and freedoms.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

October 28, 2010 11:09 PM

Madrid (ACN).- The Spanish Conservative People’s Party (PP) finally proceeded with its threat and presented an appeal against the law approved by the Catalan Parliament banning bullfighting in Catalonia from 1st January 2012 onwards. The PP’s spokesperson in the Senate, Pío García Escudero, presented the motion to the Constitutional Court’s register. The motion is 38-page longs and has been signed by 50 senators from the PP’s group. Its main argument is that the Catalan law “invades the Spanish State’s competences” and “restricts citizens’ rights and freedoms”. According to the PP, the Catalan law goes against 10 articles of the Spanish Constitution and breaks “basic constitutional principles relating to access to culture”. Now, the Court will have to decide if it accepts discussing the motion or not.

The PP is contesting the law approved on the 28th of July 2010 by the Catalan Parliament. However, this ban is not the first one in Spain.

Bullfighting is already banned in the Canary Islands

In 1991, the Canary Islands banned bullfighting because, similar to the case of Catalonia, it was not popular there. The prohibition passed without controversy and it was even approved by all the Canary Islands Parliament groups, including the PP. Now the same ban in Catalonia is under suspicion and appealed to the Spanish Constitutional Court.

The PP’s appeal

The PP’s Senate spokesperson, Pío García-Escudero has been one the PP’s most vocal members against the Catalan ban during the past months. In front of the Constitutional Court’s building, he stated that the Catalan ban “goes against freedoms of business, demonstration and artistic creation”. He also pointed out that the decrees transferring competences to autonomous communities “always talk about regulation and ordering faculties, but never about prohibition”. The PP continues to underline that the “fiesta nacional”,as bullfighting is called by Spanish nationalists, is a “national, cultural, historical, social, economic and industrial phenomenon”. The appeal affirms that the ban goes against the following articles of the Spanish Constitution: 9.2, 20, 27, 40, 44, 46, 128, 139.2, and 2 points of article 149.1.

The political controversy

The ban and its previous discussion raised a large controversy throughout Spain, especially in the places with a clear bullfighting tradition, such as Madrid and Andalucía. At a Spanish level, the Conservative People’s Party (PP) is clearly against the ban, as a clear defender of Spanish nationalism. The ruling Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) is also against the ban, although only reacted the day the ban was approved, but has not campaigning against it, as the PP did. The Catalan PSC is federated to the PSOE and it gave freedom of vote to its MPs, creating some political problems within the PSOE in the rest of Spain, especially in the bullfighting-supporting parts of the country. 3 PSC Members of the Catalan Parliament voted for the ban, although the majority of them voted against. The Catalan branch of the PP voted against the prohibition, accusing Catalan nationalist parties of banning bullfighting because of national identity reasons, as the practice is associated with Spanish nationalism. According to the PP, this decision would oblige Catalan fans to go to València or Southern France to watch a bullfight and all Spanish citizens “have the right to enjoy bullfighting”.

Catalonia and bullfighting

Nowadays, Catalonia does not have a widespread tradition of bullfighting as in the cases of southern and central Spain. Many decades ago, there were bullfighting arenas in Catalonia, many built during Franco’s times. However, nowadays only one exists in Barcelona, called “La Monumental”. The rest have closed or been torn down. “La Monumental” has a mixed crowd consisting of local fans and foreign tourists.

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 Andalucía and Castilla, with large crowds 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 within 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 in 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 no bulls are raised and only one arena remains 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 remain are bullfighting and 'correbous', which consists of making a bull run in 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 it is exposed to a highly-stressful environment. A recent law modification, ensured the “correbous” maintenance in the villages with a clear and rooted tradition, most of them in the Ebro river delta area.

The Catalan ban comes from a citizens’ petition

The Catalan Parliament discussed the ban as a citizen petition was received that obliged the Parliament at least to discuss admitting or not 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 the rejection made by the People’s Party (PPC) and the Anti-Catalan Nationalism Party (Ciudadanos). The new law was discussed for the first half of 2010 in a Parliamentary committee, where there have been hearings from different stakeholders, such as bullfighting businessmen, bullfighters, fans and animal rights associations.

The amendment was voted on the 28th July 2010. It was approved by 68 votes, absolute majority. 55 MPs voted against it, 9 abstained and 1 was absent. The prohibition will 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.