Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bull fighting banned in one part of Spain

There were triumphant cheers after the parliament of Catalonia voted to ban bullfighting. It is the first region of mainland Spain to do so, though the Canary Islands outlawed the sport in 1991. Bullfight supporters insist that the corrida, as it is known, is an important tradition to preserve. Many also fear the vote could be the first of many in the country. Opponents say the practice is barbaric and outdated.

But there are many not only fearful that the ban will set a precedent, but also affect livelihoods and tourism. However such concerns may be ill-placed. Bullfighting is seen as being 'Spanish', and the inhabitants want to be seen as 'Catalan'. The Barcelona regional government banned bullfighting in 2004 but the decision was overturned. The latest ban may last, but similar legislation may spread to only a few other regions. 

There have been three bullrings in Barcelona, the Plaza de el Torin which was built in 1834, but no longer exists, the Plaza de las Arenas, which was built in 1900 but is no longer in use, and the present bullring, the Plaza de Toros Monumental, built in 1914. Popularity has dwindled amongst the population and the bullfights draw in mostly tourists.

However in many other parts of Spain the corrida remains very popular. Despite most people's impression of bullfighting as being unique to the whitewashed villages of Andalusia and Costa Blanca, it is places like Madrid and Bilbao where the battle between man and beast is celebrated and enjoyed. 

Madrid and Andalusia are the dual epicenters of bullfighting in Spain. There are two bullrings in Madrid, Vista Alegre and Las Ventas. Las Ventas, with a capacity of 20,000 is the more important of the two and is where the majority of the fights take place. Madrid is also considered one of the best places to see a bullfight in Spain since it attracts less tourists and more real aficionados then some of the bullfights in Andalusia.

In the north the Corrida de Toros is also popular. Though bullfighting is typically Spanish and usually associated with Andalusia and Madrid, the Basques enjoy a bullfight occasionally too. They certainly don't oppose the bullfight in the way the Catalans do. It is also the home of the famous Pamplona Running of the Bulls.

Ronda is where modern bullfighting began. As a result, the Ronda bullring is held in very high regard among aficionados. However, with Ronda tucked away in the mountains, its bullring is not that accessible for genuine bullfighting fans. Perhaps to preserve Ronda's status as the genuine home of bullfighting and not a tourist trap, there are very few fights actually staged in Ronda. It may also be the last place to accept a ban on what is considered a tradition.

To many bull fighting is inherently cruel. But often such criticisms come from different cultures. The British often see the eating of horse as cruel, yet across France there are specialist butchers' shops selling the much prized meat. Dog is frequently seen on Korean and southern Chinese menus and there is puzzlement when it is suggested it is cruel to eat such animals. Few in the west however think much of boiling lobsters alive. 

Hunting or killing for sport and entertainment is still popular around the world, and draws just as much criticism. Even while the Canary Islands banned bullfighting, cockfighting is still legal. Britain has outlawed fox hunting, but there is now mounting anger being directed towards the urban fox now widely seen as vermin.

Frank Evans, a matador from England, told Sky News that there was indeed a certain amount of hypocrisy surrounding the issue of bullfighting given the millions of animals killed for meat some of them ritually slaughtered in which they bleed to death.

Bullfighting has generated particular controversy in many parts of the world, including Spain, Portugal, Peru, Mexico, and Ecuador. Supporters of bullfighting argue that it is a culturally important tradition, while animal rights advocates hold that it is a blood sport resulting in the suffering of bulls and horses. But the Catalan ban seems to be less an issue of animal rights than an assertion of local nationalism.

Whether tourism drops only remains to be seen. And since the ban does not take effect until January 2012, it may even be overturned by a change of government [BBC / Sky / CNN].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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