Add to My Yahoo!


Spain's bullfighting tradition goes into decline By Sinikka Tarvainen

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday January 4, 2007

By Sinikka Tarvainen,
Madrid- Most people cannot imagine Spain without
bullfights, but there are growing signs that the country's centuries-
old "fiesta nacional" (national celebration) is on the decline.
Not only are young people losing interest in the glittering and
bloody spectacle, but even some of the authorities are beginning to
feel embarrassed about an "art" which foreign animal rights
campaigners blast as a form of torture.

When a matador donning his "suit of lights" bravely confronts
death in the form of a 500-kilo fighting bull, spectators witness
"the last great art of the western world," playwright Albert Boadilla
wrote recently.

Bullfighting "has survived miraculously since antiquity against
all political correctness," he added.

Artists such as the late US author Ernest Hemingway and the
painter Pablo Picasso were fans of bullfighting, without which Spain
would lose something essential to its profound character,
bullfighting enthusiasts feel.

Bullfighting is also a big industry, which employs some 200,000
people - from bull breeders to bullfighters' assistants - and turns
over about 1.5 billion euros (nearly 2 billion dollars) a year.

Around 12,000 bulls are killed in 2,000 annual corridas in the
country where top matadors are celebrities comparable to movie stars.

The fierce Iberian fighting bulls - a race which would disappear
without bullfights - are raised on spacious ecological pastures which
industrial farm animals can't even dream of, bullfighting fans point

Despite such arguments, the popularity of bullfighting is clearly
declining among Spaniards, 72 per cent of whom have no interest in
the spectacle, up from 43 per cent in 1971, according to a recent

Among young people, the figure rose to 82 per cent and among
women, to 78.5 per cent. The typical bullfighting public now consists
of elderly men.

A decade ago, young "showman" matadors such as Jesulin de Ubrique
sought to renovate the spectacle with new techniques and novelties
such as corridas only for women, but their impact was short-lived.

At the same time, consciousness of animal rights is on the rise in
the country traditionally fond of bloodsports ranging from cockfights
to hurling live goats from church towers.

Bullfights tarnish Spain's image in the European Union,
Environment Minister Cristina Narbona pointed out recently, proposing
Portuguese-style corridas in which the bull is not killed in front of
the spectators.

Narbona's comments sparked an instant storm, with even leaders of
her own Socialist Party rushing to defend the bullfighting tradition.

Some animal rights campaigners observed that the bull, which
bleeds from darts stuck into its neck during the bullfight, suffers
even more in Portugal, where it faces an agonizing wait before being
finished off in a slaughterhouse.

The only Spanish region to have reduced bullfights so far is
northeastern Catalonia, where the capital Barcelona and some 20 other
municipalities have declared themselves "anti-bullfight."

Barcelona's last bullring is so unprofitable that the company
managing it intends to give up the business next year.

Catalonia's dislike of bullfights, however, is also attributed to
separatist strivings in the region, which seeks to distance itself
from things seen as typically Spanish.

© 2006 - dpa German Press Agency