The Spanish tradition of bullfighting is about to come to an end in the country’s autonomous Catalonia region.
Barcelona’s last ‘corrida’ will take place on Sunday September 25 even though a Catalan law banning the practice doesn’t officially come into effect until next year.
Spanish public opinion is divided when it comes to bullfighting. Supporters say it is a a part of Spanish heritage, a ritual that has endured for centuries.
Among them is Ruper Campanon. “I feel very bad because it is a local tradition,” she says. “I don’t think a ban is right; the bulls will die anyway.”
Bullfighting was banned by Catalan lawmakers last year in what many Spaniards see as a political statement, an attempt by the regional government to demonstrate its influence and autonomy.
For some, like Barcelona resident Francisco Caro, the ban is discriminatory. “I like bullfights even if I’m not really a big fan,” he admits. “But I disagree with the ban. I think bullfight fans have the same rights as bullfight opponents.”
Yet the corrida’s popularity has long been on the wane in the region: Barcelona’s magnificent arenas are rarely even half full for bullfights.
For animal rights campaigners like Lluis Villacorta, the ban is a major victory. Villacorta has been physically attacked because of his campaign to get bullfighting stopped. “It’s a great joy that they will no longer torture and kill defenceless bulls in Barcelona,” he says, “but sad because it will go on in the rest of Spain.”
Spain’s Canary Islands outlawed bullfighting 20 years ago, although the practice had never really enjoyed great popularity there. There are no plans to copy the Catalan ban in more pro-corrida towns like Pamplona or Madrid.
One argument put forward by those opposing the ban is the detrimental effects on the local economy. Matadors themselves can earn hundreds of thousands of euros for each show, although Catalonia’s seven or eight bullfighters will still be able to work elsewhere.
For those who work in bars in the arenas or tailors who make the matadors’ clothes, the demise of the industry means the death of their livelihood. A campaign is under way to petition the national government in Madrid to give bullfighting a protected status nationwide, but that initiative will come much to late to stop Catalonia going ahead with its ban on bullfighting.
Catalonia prepares for controversial bullfighting ban