After heated debate, Catalonia bans bullfighting

McClatchy-Tribune News Service | Boulder Weekly

— The independence-minded region of Catalonia became the first on the
Spanish mainland to outlaw bullfighting Wednesday after impassioned

Lawmakers in Catalonia’s regional assembly approved
the ban after emotional speeches that mixed expressions of support for
maintaining tradition with denunciations of bullfighting as
institutionalized cruelty.

The vote culminated a public initiative to ditch
bullfighting that began more than 1 1/2 years ago and has drawn
international media coverage. Backers of the ban erupted in cheers in
the assembly chamber’s gallery.

But critics have assailed the campaign for a ban as
a pretext for more nakedly political and nationalist ends. They suspect
the true motive is a desire to poke a stick in the eye of the rest of Spain, an assertion of Catalan identity as different.

The assembly vote here in Barcelona,
the regional capital, came during a mood of heightened anger among
Catalonians clamoring for more autonomy, if not outright independence.

Earlier this month, Catalan nationalists put on one
of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in this sun-splashed part of
northern Spain. The protest was fueled by outrage over a long-awaited ruling by Spain’s
constitutional court that upheld most of Catalonia’s charter on greater
self-rule but refused to recognize a legal basis for calling the region
a “nation.”

Conservatives say that getting rid of bullfighting
further undermines Spanish unity, calling it a gratuitous attack on one
of the country’s most hallowed traditions.

Advocates of the ban reject suggestions that their
views or actions are a byproduct of Catalan separatism. They see
bullfighting not as a tradition steeped in romance but a barbaric
practice steeped in blood.

When the anti-bullfighting organization Prou
(Catalan for “Enough”) launched its petition drive to put the issue
before lawmakers, its goal was to clear the legal hurdle of 50,000
signatures; it wound up collecting 180,000.

Nonetheless, the issue was a sensitive one for Catalonian politicians, who are facing an election later this year.

Before Wednesday’s vote, bullfighting fans and foes
gathered outside the parliament building to press their case as
lawmakers arrived to take their seats inside. One anti-bullfighting
activist stripped himself naked, then poured a bucket of fake blood
over himself to encourage legislators to “stop animal cruelty.”


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