A red rag to a bull?

THE steadily growing clamour from those opposed to that most Spanish of national sports has been halted in its tracks, at least for the time being.

Hoping for support from Spain’s young, allied to the very polite appeals of most of its foreign residents and many in the international community, those who object to bullfighting had thought themselves to be winning the argument, albeit slowly.

That polite progress and gentle persuasion has just been hoofed into the tall grass.

The country’s Constitutional Court has slapped down a move to ban bullfighting in the one region where a little calm and a long siesta would have gone some way to reducing nascent political tensions.

Catalonia, home to one of the world’s top 10 cities and the galactically successful residents of the Camp Nou, has been told its 2010 ban on bullfighting, enacted by the regional government, is unconstitutional.

The findings of the esteemed judges had nothing to do with their distaste or lack of it for this undeniably brutal ‘sport.’

Their ire was reserved for the Catalan parliament whose members had exceeded their authority by banning this particular ‘expression of a cultural nature.’

They said it was for the Spanish state to make determinations as to the country’s “common cultural heritage.”

Did they deliver their esteemed judgement on paper that was even slightly mauve? Or was it tied up with a red ribbon? Hopefully not. Unsurprisingly, this judgement did not go down well in Catalonia.

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau said his city would “not allow bulls to be mistreated,” regardless of the judgement.

Catalonia’s refusal to sanction the ‘public spectacle of death and suffering to an animal’ was unalterable, said its minister for Public Works, Josep Rull.

It was less than helpful, although not that surprising, that a former president of the Madrid region appeared to goad his Catalonian counterparts with the tweet ‘Bulls return to Catalonia.’  

Some cynics have suggested Catalonia’s original ban had less to do with the welfare of its bull population and more to do with a dig at the Spanish state.

If not, then why is it some festivals in which flaming torches are attached to the horns of a bull were not also outlawed?

Supporters of such festivals point to the fact that the bulls are not killed as reason enough not to ban them.

For the animal rights activists the Supreme Court decision must feel like a blow from an unexpected source. What will happen now to similar bans enacted by Valencia, San Sebastian and the ban enacted in the Balearics back in 1995?

The activists will keep up the pressure. In the pages of this paper an attempt to promote a family-friendly alternative to Denia’s Bous a la Mar, in which a bull is taunted into jumping into the sea, brought about a flood of comments, most of them in favour. 

But if the court knocks back regional bans where do you try to exert the most pressure? On the Spanish state by marching in Madrid?

The road ahead for those who want a total ban was always going to be a long one, but state-wide bans was at least a start. They represented a little light at the end of a long tunnel. Now that tunnel has just got a little darker. 

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