Bullfighting under threat from Spain’s new Left-wing councils

The bullfighters of Spain may have finally met their match, as a tranche of newly elected Left-wing mayors eye the demise of one of the country’s grandest, but most controversial, traditions.

A number of Spanish cities are now taking action to end the blood sport following last month’s local elections which left a host of small Leftist parties wielding power across the country. In Alicante, the Left-wing coalition council has proposed a referendum on bullfighting, a Socialist-led alliance is mulling a ban in Palma, Majorca, while Madrid plans to cut public subsidies to the practice.

The world-famous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona is even under threat.

Less than a month before the start of this year’s San Fermín festival, Pamplona’s new mayor, Joseba Asiron, raised the prospect of a public consultation on the city’s bull-running tradition.

He vowed that no action would be taken against the festival without “due reflection and a participatory process” – but that has done little to reassure fans of taurine sports. Mr Asiron’s Bildu party – which supports independence for the Basque Country in which Pamplona sits – prevented any bullfights taking place in San Sebastián during its four-year rule there up to May.

The provincial spokesman there said when pressed on the issue earlier this month that while bulls were “vital” to Pamplona’s culture, the “citizens should decide” whether they wanted such events in their cities.

Runners make their way through the street with El Pilar fighting bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona (AP)
Runners make their way through the street with El Pilar fighting bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona (AP)

In the Mediterranean city of Alicante, council members are drawing up plans for an unprecedented referendum on the issue. With opinion polls on the subject rare, it is unclear which way a vote would go; the last time the government’s CIS public opinion research body asked about the practice was in 1995, when 45.5 per cent said they were in favour and 39.9 per cent against.

In Madrid, where the 24,000 seats at Las Ventas bullring sell out daily for the month-long San Isidro festival in May and June, the city’s new mayor has made clear she does not support the sport. One week after retired judge Manuela Carmena, the leader of the Left-wing Ahora Madrid coalition, was inaugurated as mayor, the council’s box at Las Ventas was empty for last Sunday’s bullfight.

Ahora Madrid – which includes the far Left anti-austerity party Podemos – has pledged it will cut policy public assistance to bullfighting, a move which will affect the famed – and heavily subsidised – Marcial Lalanda bullfighting school.

The Galician city of A Coruña, now controlled by the Left-wing Marea Atlántica (Atlantic Tide) coalition, has said it will remove all subsidies from events based on “animal abuse”. In Palma, Majorca, the new Socialist-led coalition is debating whether to declare the city “bullfight free” in response to a local campaign which has gathered 127,000 signatures in favour of a ban. It would then join Barcelona, where the regional government outlawed the practice in 2011.

Javier Sanz Berrioategortua, a fan of ‘corridas’ (bullfights) who writes a blog on the subject called Toro, Torero y Afición, said he is not worried about the political animosity towards his passion, but rather the dwindling strength of the bullfighting sector itself.

“What really concerns me is how weak bullfighting is in many places. Where the bullrings fill with people, as in Pamplona for example, I doubt that anyone will dare to try and introduce a ban. But the figures are very weak in places like San Sebastián and Barcelona, where bullfighting was already dead before the law was changed.”

Mr Sanz Berrioategortua said he believes that political opportunism is at play, noting that Socialist party members voted for a ban in Catalonia, but have supported subsidies in Andalucia, where bullfighting retains greater popularity.

“In the past it was normal to see politicians of different stripes at bullrings. Now it is clear that they are frightened of being criticised. No one is defending bullfighting, starting with the businessmen who organise corridas. There is no union between them.”

Fuente: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/11694875/Bullfighting-under-threat-from-Spains-new-Left-wing-councils.html

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