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Bull festivities in Catalonia revive debate between tradition and animal rights

After the Catalan Parliament’s ban on bullfighting approved in 2010, controversy between those in favour and those against bull festivities has been continuing for years now. The latest issue under discussion is the continuation of a specific bull event called the ‘correbous’ that takes place in the Ebro Delta area, in southern Catalonia. ‘Correbous’ are deeply rooted in the area’s tradition, organised to coincide with the towns’ patron saint parties, held during summertime. They are different from regular bullfighting and they have more similarities with Pamplona’s San Fermín festival, where people run in front of the bulls.


17 August 2012 10:54 PM


Laura Fabregat

Barcelona (ACN).- 2010 was a crucial year for bullfighting events. First of all, the Catalan Parliament abolished bullfights in the whole of Catalonia. Barcelona held its last bullfight in the Plaza Monumental bullring in September 2011 amid demonstrations by people in favour and those against the practice. Now the \u2018correbous\u2019 are under scrutiny. This activity has no literal translation but is different to the common bullfight because the bulls remain alive and, moreover, it is exclusively practised in the Ebro Delta area, in the south of Catalonia. \u2018Correbous\u2019 are a part of the tradition of these places and are included in local festivities, coinciding with the towns\u2019 patron saint parties, held during the summertime. The bulls are let loose in the bullring or in some duly-closed streets while people run in front of them. In this sense, they have more similarities with Pamplona\u2019s San Fermín festival, than with a regular bullfight. Although \u2018correbous\u2019 represent a century-old tradition, political groups have finally questioned the issue citing mistreatment of the animal.

In September 2010, the continuation of the \u2018correbous\u2019 was put to a vote. According to the results (114 in favour, 14 against and 5 abstentions), the Catalan Parliament approved the activity with the full support of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU), the Catalan branch of the People\u2019s Party (PPC), the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the majority of MPs from the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) \u2013who were free to vote. 

The \u2018correbous\u2019 was allowed to go ahead, but under certain conditions. The text approved in the Catalan Parliament banned the presence of under-14s at bullrings and also imposed an age limit on some activities like the practice of running bulls with fire balls on their horns, a tradition mainly developed in the Valencia Community (also called Valencian Country) but also shared in the town of Amposta and nearby villages.

The controversy is reborn

Recently, animal rights associations such as the PACMA or AnimaNaturalis have made complaints about the areas where \u2018correbous\u2019 are held. They have already made several complaints regarding violence towards the animals and serious infringements of security measures in 2011 \u2013for example, the participation of under-14s- in these events. The towns reported have been Camarles, Amposta, L\u2019Aldea and Sant Carles de la Ràpita, all of them from the Ebro Delta area, in southern Catalonia.

However, the Bullfighting Commissions of the Ebro Delta Area (APCTTEE) are convinced that these associations which defend animal rights are conducting a \u201Cweakened campaign\u201D because \u201Ctheir arguments do not persuade anybody and their complaints are always discarded\u201D. According to APCTTEE, groups like PACMA or AnimaNaturalis are formed by people who do not know what this festivity means because they talk about safety rules and other aspects that are alien to the philosophy of the bull festivals.

APCTTEE spokesman, Santi Albiol, also affirms that they have proved that they \u201Cscrupulously obey the law\u201D. The spokesman adds that they have groups and commissions which know what they can and cannot do. \u201CThese are a guarantee and, actually, the bull festivals end up with good results and, moreover, the incident rate is decreasing\u201D.  

What else do the parties involved say?     

\u201CIf we [CIU] positioned ourselves against the bullfights in 2010 but in favour of \u2018correbous\u2019, it is because both things are very different from each other\u201D, points out Josep Garriga Reverté, Councilman from Amposta, one of the most important towns in the Ebro Delta area. \u201CThe biggest difference is that bullfights include horrible treatment to the animal until its death whilst most of the bulls that participate in \u2018correbous\u2019 come back to their livestock\u201D, continues Garriga.

The spokesperson for PACMA, Silvia Barquero, affirms that \u201Cit is a verified fact that bulls suffer from stress and anxiety in practices like \u2018correbous\u2019\u201D. She highlights that \u201Cbulls are mammals with a nervous system similar to the human species, which is blessed with physical and psychic sensitivity\u201D. PACMA has the support of Juan Jose Badiola, the president of the General Council of Veterinary Colleges, who states that \u201Cbulls are frightened of fire and suffer from stress when people set fire to their horns\u201D.

In addition, Barquero underlines article 2.3 of the current legislation on the matter of animal protection which declares that \u201Cnobody is to cause suffering or mistreatment to animals or other situations such as anxiety or fear\u201D. However, Garriga insists that animals are not mistreated in Amposta and the bullfight fans watch for its security and control over the practice instead. He also says that UNESCO has considered the \u2018correbous\u2019 a Cultural Heritage while other associations criticise the activity without ever having seen it.

\u201CIt is impossible for any association to put a stop on this ancestral tradition because it is such an important social event\u201D, said Josep Garriga. As well as assuring that nowadays \u201Cit is a tradition that enjoys good health\u201D. 

In contrast, Silvia Barquero points out that \u201Ctradition is not a solid argument to maintain an activity that harms the animal\u201D and adds that \u201Cin the course of history we have had innumerable traditions that have been abandoned after being revised from an ethical viewpoint\u201D. Barquero wants the ethics debate to take hold and expects the same results with \u2018correbous\u2019 tradition.  

PACMA says they \u201Cwant to make Catalan society aware of animals suffering through the use of videos. Their aim is \u201Cthat the majority of people come out against \u2018correbous\u2019 and force politicians to change the legislation\u201D. However, Josep Garriga invites everybody to the bull festivities \u201Cto prove that we do not mistreat animals; people will be able to see that the associations are against our festivities without knowing anything about them\u201D. Santi Albiol goes further and emphatically claims that \u201Cmany times, the ignorance that they [PACMA or AnimaNaturalis] show makes them look ridiculous\u201D.


  • A bull tied to a rope in the Ebro Delta area (by ACN)

  • A bull tied to a rope in the Ebro Delta area (by ACN)