Can Bullfighting Survive the Next Decade in Spain?

Bullfighting is still a major tradition in Spain for the outside world. The show’s tragic end has caused a split in Spain.

Particularly among young Spaniards, the annual attendance rate at bullfights is declining each year. The number bullfighting events in Spain fell to a historic low of 1,521 in 2018.

A growing number of people are questioning the artistic motivations behind the sacrifice of the bull’s life for the sake of culture. This was once Spain’s most famous spectacle. Now it is out of fashion.

Government figures show that only 8% of the population attended a bullfighting spectacle in 2013. Only 5.9% of this population went to a bullfight, or ‘corrida’. The rest attended other events like the popular running the bulls.

According to the same survey, 65% of Spaniards are interested in bullfighting. The percentage rises to 72.1% among people aged 15-19 and to 76.4% for those aged 20-24.

Only 5.9% claim an interest in the spectacle between 9 and 10.

The figures vary greatly from one autonomous community or another. Castilla y Leon and Castilla-La Mancha accounted for 77.9% each of the bullfighting events in 2018.


Bullfights in Spain: Institutional clashes

National and regional regulations reflect the differences between regions. The Spanish Congress passed a bill in 2013 to regulate bullfighting. It was passed with the support of the conservative People’s Party, which was then under Mariano Rajoy’s direction.

Preamble of the law establishes bullfighting’s cultural nature as “indisputable”. The text states that bullfighting is an artistic manifestation, detached from ideologies, in which deep human values like intelligence, bravery or solidarity are highlighted.

However, some regional governments disagree with this view. Catalonia passed in 2012 a grassroots-promoted law banning bullfights.

The Spanish Constitutional Court revoked the Catalan regulation four years later because it was inconsistent with the State’s national law on cultural patrimony. The Court’s judges ruled that regional governments could regulate bullfights, but not veto them.

Mallorca passed a law in 2017 banning spectacles that cause pain to animals. Although it did not ban bullfights directly, the text indirectly prohibited bulls from being killed as part of the show.

A year later, Spain’s Constitutional Court declared the insular regulation partially unconstitutional. The judges ruled that Spanish ‘corridas” would lose their essence if the animal died.

The Court ruled that “so much divergence from traditional use makes it difficult to recognize the nuclear characteristics bullfights that the State has protected”


Bullfighting’s dependency on public money

Despite rising voices calling for animal cruelty regulations, there is still a strong core that supports traditional Spanish bullfighting.

The People’s Party, along with the far-right Vox, committed last year to supporting bullfighting by Spanish law. They consider it a historic and artistic heritage, as well as a source for wealth and employment.

Bullfighting relies heavily on the public funds provided by local governments and autonomous communities. Spain’s regional governments offer subsidies each year to bullfighting clubs and associations, schools, festivals, and schools.

Madrid’s conservative mayor Isabel Diaz Ayuso said bullfighting festivals are “an expression of freedom”. Ayuso stated that bullfighting will not die and would survive any anti-bullfighting fad. This was at the Madrid Bullfighting Agenda 2020 presentation last month.

Every year, however, efforts to preserve the “corridas” character are losing momentum. According to government figures, Spain’s bullfighting tradition is in danger of disappearing due to a lack of public support and a growing trend towards animal protection in both the political and social spheres.

Numerous city councils are cutting subsidies for bullfights, while the political agenda is shifting to the topic of public assistance.

Similar debates have been raised in Portugal and other countries that have a tradition of bullfighting,

Spain’s neighbor has found a middle solution that is non-lethal and involves bullfight shows. However, there is growing pressure to ban bullfighting celebrations once and for all in order to protect bulls from mistreatment.

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