Spain’s Catalonia approves bullfight ban

July 29th, 2010 - 1:12 am ICT by IANS  

Barcelona, July 28 (DPA) The north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia Wednesday adopted a ground-breaking bullfighting ban that is dividing opinions in the rest of the country.
Movie director Agustin Diaz Yanes described the decision as a “cultural tragedy”, while animal rights activists celebrated a “historic day”.

The regional parliament in Barcelona outlawed bullfights with 68 votes against 55. Nine legislators abstained.

Catalan nationalist and far-left legislators backed the ban, while Spain’s main opposition conservative People’s Party (PP) and most Catalan parliamentarians from Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist Party voted against it.

The ban will end bullfights in the region of 7.5 million residents - the wealthiest among Spain’s 17 regions - from the beginning of 2012.

Catalonia is the first region on the Spanish mainland to outlaw bullfights, after the Canary Islands banned them in 1991.

The anti-bullfighting group Prou had collected 180,000 signatures to request the prohibition, which parliament then agreed to debate.

Bullfighting had already been on the decline in Catalonia, where Barcelona’s Monumental remained the only bullring to stage bullfights on a regular basis.

But Prou spokeswoman Anna Mula had urged the Catalan parliament to send a “message of compassion and progress to humanity” in ending the “torture” of fighting bulls.

The treatment they are given in bullrings would never be accepted if it involved other mammals such as dogs and cats, she argued.

Conservatives defending bullfights said Catalans should be free to decide whether to attend them. Bullfighting enthusiasts also regard the spectacle as an art form that is part of the Spanish identity.

“Bullfighting is an emotion, and emotions are very difficult to explain,” author Almudena Grandes noted.

The Catalan branch of the PP said it would ask the national parliament to overturn the ban, while local animal-rights activists vowed to encourage other regions to outlaw bullfights as well.

That would, however, be difficult in regions with strong bullfighting traditions, such as Madrid or southern Andalusia, Prou spokesman Leonardo Anselmi admitted.

Madrid activists have nevertheless already requested a ban in a countermove to conservative regional Prime Minister Esperanza Aguirre, who announced that the region would declare bullfights part of its cultural heritage.

The Catalan debate also took political overtones, with conservatives claiming that separatists wanted to abolish bullfights as a symbol of Spanishness.

More than 11,000 bulls are killed annually in Spanish bullfights, which generate some 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion) and give direct or indirect employment to 200,000 people.

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