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Damian Corrigan

Barcelona Bullfighting Ban

By July 28, 2010

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The regional parliament in Barcelona has passed into law a resolution to ban bullfighting in Catalonia. The result of the vote was 68 in favor of the ban, 55 against and nine absentions. A few hundred less bulls will die in the region because of the ruling, but what were the real motives behind the ban?

See also: Book a Non-Violent Bullfight Just Outside Barcelona (book direct)

The move comes after years of opposition in the region, where the animal rights case has been mixed in with Catalan nationalism as the region attempts to distance itself from the rest of Spain. The separatists have used the emotive case of bullfighting to get international attention for the 'plight' of the 'repressed' Catalan nation. Anti-bullfighting campaigns in Catalonia are always accompanied by Catalan flags.

So what has been the result of the ban? Has the animal rights situation in the region improved? A little. These bulls will no longer die in each year in bullfights, but many others will continue to suffer in the similar bous al carrer ('bulls in the street') and, indeed, in the many substandard abattoirs in the region.

So what's the difference between the bous al carrer and bullfighting? The former is 'Catalan', the latter is 'Spanish'; the former won't make the front pages of newspapers around the world, the latter will.

Catalonia is a region where its anachronistic independence struggle (illogical and irrelevant in a border-free Europe) blurs the boundaries between political causes to such an extent that it is difficult to see exactly what Catalans stand for, apart from less taxes going to Madrid. Catalonia is a region where the communist party has a hammer and sickle on top of a Catalan flag (that is to say, a nationalist/communist oxymoron, which even a high-school politics student will know is contradictory). Rebellion for the sake of rebellion: coherent political stances are optional.

Of course, it's not just the Catalans that use nationalism in the bullfighting debate. Spanish nationalists support bullfighting not out of a Hemmingway-esque love of the practice, but because it is 'Spanish' to be in favor of it. In fact, the two sides are so similar in their arguments and behaviour, why don't they just share a nation and stop arguing about it?

The law will come into force on January 1, 2012. In the meantime, is it right to see a bullfight in Barcelona where the practice is no longer welcome (for whatever reason)? Read more on Things NOT to Do in Barcelona.

See also:

July 28, 2010 at 7:05 am
(1) aaa says:

Many things are wrong, please inform well!
In correbous the bulls are not killed (huge difference). The initiative starting the ban comes from a public party, lead by an argentinian (vegetarian) collecting signatures around the world. You should travel even more, and probably read more.

July 28, 2010 at 7:11 am
(2) gospain says:

Thanks, aaa. I’ve corrected that. I don’t think it really changes the point. If it’s about the bulls dying, why not ban hamburgers?

But please don’t judge my traveling and reading experience.

July 28, 2010 at 7:14 am
(3) Luis says:

Pienso que estan politizando todo esto. a los politicos catalales les importa poco los toros. más bien les importa ser “menos españoles”. y prohibiendo los toros consiguen meter más presión nada más. creo que los toros es parte de nuestra cultura, algo milenario. empiezan prohibiendo los toros, luego terminaran prohibiendo cagar sentado o tirarse un pedo en un bar cualquier tonteria … al tiempo

July 28, 2010 at 7:15 am
(4) Frederique says:

Oh come on, aaa. You’re kidding? No-one thought of banning bullfighting until an Argentine suggested it? And that proves what exactly? Even if you’re right, it wasn’t one man who got this passed. What this article says is a lot of truth.

July 28, 2010 at 7:21 am
(5) ¿España o Catalonia? ¡Da igual! says:

Spain as a political entity is only 35 years old, or seven in dog years (I think political thought is probably very similar to that of a dog).

Catalonia’s quarrel with the rest of Spain is like two seven year old brothers arguing. Their parents tell them “you’re so alike” and that only makes them more angry.

Spain never had the Swinging Sixties and all the free love that went with it. Maybe if they had, they wouldn’t have this stick up their arses and they’d realised that the best thing about Catalonia is not how different it is from Spain, but how similar it is to Spain.

This whole debate embarrasses both sides.

July 28, 2010 at 7:23 am
(6) Mark says:

Well said, #5!

July 28, 2010 at 7:33 am
(7) Compis says:

No matter how “poetic” it sounds. In fact #5 is utterly wrong.

Those two 7 year old brothers are on exact equal terms. That’s why the situation is embarrassing.

Which is not the actual case. Wort analogy ever…

July 28, 2010 at 7:44 am
(8) #8 says:

Your article on the ban of bullfighting is very informative. I haven’t followed the debate in the news, except I saw the Danish newspapers front pages about the voting on the motion. So I gather that some separatist movement tried to use the disputable bullfighting in a political struggle for something they will probably never achieve.
That was to me the point and I think you conveyed it very well.

July 28, 2010 at 7:46 am
(9) Matthew Bennett says:

This is an historic vote, whichever way you look at it. If there is one country in the world people associate with bulls it’s Spain, so for Catalonia to decide it’s ‘anti-bulls’ is a huge decision in terms of cultural identity.

It’s absolutely essential to look at this decision in the light of the current nationalistic political debate which we are seeing. This has very little to do with cruelty to animals and very much to do with what’s going on politically. Just off the top of my head:

- The Catalan regional elections are just round the corner
- If there is one thing which has identified ZP’s project over the last few years, it has been the idea of decentralising Spain;
- The recent Estatut decision by Spain’s Constitutional Court;
- Zapatero’s (astonishing) reaction to that decision (“we’ll see how we can get around it”);
- The massive demonstration in Barcelona following the Constitutional Court’s decision;
- ICJ ruling on Kosovo declaration of independence.

July 28, 2010 at 7:56 am
(10) Xavier says:

I wish some naive people in Catalonia would read this article and these excellent comments

July 28, 2010 at 7:57 am
(11) Julie says:

Bullfighting is cruel! Who cares why they did it, they did it!

July 28, 2010 at 8:06 am
(12) Pablo says:

Compis, do you smoke too much cannabis? Is that where your paranoia comes from?

Catalonia has Catalan-language schools, newspapers, books, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, road signs, etc. All at a huge expense to the government – an unnecessary expense, as 99.9% of Catalans speak Spanish, so they don’t need to have road signs and radio stations in Catalan.

If there is a reason why Catalonia is not equal to Spanish, it’s because the Catalans waste so much money making a linguistic/communication issue into a political issue, when it could be spent on better roads, hospitals and fire stations.

July 28, 2010 at 8:10 am
(13) Philippa says:

Exactamente, Pablo!

By the way, I am English by birth, but I moved to Barcelona when I was two. So I was brought up in the Catalan system, but my (English) parents didn’t brainwash me. I am now 22 and I have moved to Madrid, where the government spends its money on slightly better things (though, of course, the Madrid government is far from perfect – we are in this crisis for a reason – but at least it tries!)

July 28, 2010 at 8:19 am
(14) Stefan Johansson says:

I don’t know anything about the situation. What I do see is that the Catalans and anti-bullfighting people are bias in one direction and the Spanish and pro-bullfighting people are bias in the other direction.

But it seems to me that the neutrals see this as a political issue, not an animal rights issue.

I am inclined to agree with them.

July 28, 2010 at 8:52 am
(15) Pau says:

Philippa & Pablo: “Catalonia has Catalan-language schools, newspapers, books, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, road signs, etc. All at a huge expense to the government – an unnecessary expense, as 99.9% of Catalans speak Spanish, so they don’t need to have road signs and radio stations in Catalan”.

Catalans speak english as well, but that does not mean that we should read exclusively english press, listen to music just in english language or have the road signs in english. The language of catalonia is -unsurprisingly- the catalan language. The Spanish state devotes more than 90 million euros a year (including money of the catalan taxpayers which amounts to a 25% of the total with only a 16% of the population) to promote spanish laguage around the world, subsidizes spanish literature, music, makes spanish language compulsory in nearly every aspect of daily life, but spends zero euros promoting catalan (or galician, basque…) culture. It is embarrassing to read both spaniards and strangers here expecting us not to want to live fully in catalan within Catalonia. Sorry, dear, if you go to France, you’ll expect everything to be in french. In Catalonia we do speak spanish as well, but it is not our language. Perhaps if you promote “catalan-language schools, newspapers, books, magazines, TV stations, radio stations, road signs (…)” outside Catalonia, I will hold my laughter the next time you try to ceise the higher moral ground. I do speak both my language and your language. There’s no reciprocity at all because you obviously don’t speak catalan, but somehow I am expected to make further sacrifices concerning my culture to satisfy you or some other stranger. Well, that’s enough already.

July 28, 2010 at 9:11 am
(16) Ur says:

I think there are many people in Spain against bullfighting, and definitely the “sport” is not as popular as it used to be in the past, having been largely replaced by football, basketball and other sports. While in my humble opinion the ban was not really necessary in Cataluna, given that there is only one ring and tickets are rarely sold out, I do believe it shows a clear change in the mentality of Spanish people in general towards cruelty to animals and entertainment (thinking the anti-bullfighting movement is restricted to Cataluna is very inaccurate). Politicizing this particular issue is something that shouldnt be done (lets not forget that deputies voted according to their own choice and not following their parties’ line, as it is usual) and I feel the situation is being oversimplified.

Pau, You are right, spending money on preserving, using and teaching Catalan is not wrong because it’s the language spoken in the region and everybody is bound to respect it, I guess what people criticizes but cannot put nicely into words is the political agenda that sometimes is behind it and that only benefit a few (from “both sides”) and that is what makes the big headlines on the newspapers.

July 28, 2010 at 9:34 am
(17) LimRickNews says:

There’s bullish news from the Spanish region, Catalan.
Bullfighting will be banned, goes the plan.
So some folks have a beef,
About giving bulls grief,
A case of beast being bullied by man?
For more, google “LimRickNews”.

July 28, 2010 at 9:45 am
(18) Eva Dujnsu says:

THESE ARE ALL LIES! I AM CATALAN, I LIVE IN BARCELONA AND I HAVE BEEN AN ACTIVIST FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS SINCE I CAN REMEMBER. And this article is SOOOOO WRONG I can’t even pick where to start to correct it. Just want to say, please, inform yourself next time just a little bit before talking about US or anybody or anything like this, with so many LIES!

July 28, 2010 at 9:45 am
(19) Damian (different one!) says:

Regardless of which motive is stronger (animal rights or nationalism), they have definitely been mixed. (How often have we heard ‘it’s not Catalan to kill animals?)

But why do the two have to be mixed? What does it say about the animal rights movement in Catalonia if the case to ban bullfighting is not strong enough without bringing in nationalism? Catalan animal rights activists say “It’s not Catalan to kill animals”, REAL animal rights activists say it’s not HUMANE to kill animals.

Not only that, but by tying the two issues together, you make someone who is anti-Catalonia into a pro-bullfighting person too. I’ve got into debates in bars in Barcelona where people have defended bullfighting because they’re annoyed at Catalan nationalism. When I ask them “but do you like bullfighting?” they say no!

Catalonia needs to grow up and get its issues clear in its head.

July 28, 2010 at 9:51 am
(20) gospain says:

Then, Eva, you should be embarrassed by how nationalists have confused the issue.

If you have not seen, heard and read how activists, nationalists and politicians mix the issues then where have you been?

July 28, 2010 at 10:18 am
(21) Lluc says:

Catalans aren’t banning flamenco, nor jamón de jabugo, nor siesta, nor any other Spanish cultural trait: banning bullfighting has nothing to do with nationalism nor separatist movements. It has everything to do with animals rights. Spanish nationalistic right wing party sells the controversy as a national confrontation because A) They lack any rational argument for the bullfights. B) Anticatalanism and bashing catalan nationalism gives them votes. Please, don’t let the Wpanish media intoxicate this issue (there are a huge lot of other spaniards against this; its not -I repeat-, NOT about nationalism).

July 28, 2010 at 10:51 am
(22) Nuria says:

Dear Damian (another one),

Sorry, but *Spain* needs to grow up and stop mixing these issues, treating their citizen fairly (irrespective of their national sensivities), recognising Kosovo (we don’t really like to follow China or Russia’s foreign policy) and so on…

Bullfighting is known as the “fiesta nacional” (roughly translated as “national event”). When we criticise bullfighting because it is repugnant, and on top of that we happen to be catalan, we are instantly labelled as anti-Spanish.
Most catalans would like to be considered “fully-Spanish” without renouncing in the slightest to their customs, language and culture, which are Spanish as well (for now, at least). But nowadays in Spain “Spanish” means “Castillian”. Basque, Galician & Catalan identities are seen by the Castillian-speaking spaniards as Spanish as the Portuguese are, with the strange peculiarity of being within the Spanish state.

Spain is complex (so is Catalonia, of course).

July 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm
(23) Sheryl says:

I have never read so much nonsense in my life – your comment : Catalonia is a region where its anachronistic independence struggle (illogical and irrelevant in a border-free Europe) suggests that WW2 was a waste of time because now Germany is part of the EU!!! The comment “ITs not Catalan to kill animals” probably comes from the fact that animal cruelty is very spanish and it is only recently that animal rights have taken off hence the action in Barcelona P.S also note that the Canary Islands banned bullfighting in 1991 what also an anti-Spain conspiracy theory there!!!!!!

July 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm
(24) gospain says:

I think it is clear that bullfighting would have died naturally in all of Spain if it wasn’t for blind obsession with maintaining Spanish traditions. I accept that it is this lack of Spanish identity in Catalonia that has meant that a love of bullfighting has been able to fade in a way that is to be expected in the 21st century. But STILL Catalans are unable to keep the issue separate. The issues are always talked about in the same breath, a problem that spoils the sensible opposition to bullfighting.

Catalonia today is NOT Poland in 1939, and it is despicable to trivialise WW2 in this way. Nation-state borders have never followed cultural boundaries and there is no logic behind the argument that cultural independence must equal political independence.

The subjugation of any people by any other people has always been wrong. But we can’t roll back history completely. How far would you go back? To feudalism? The only natural loyalty is to the family and the village the family belongs to.

Bloody battles were how Catalonia lost out to Spain, but it was similar bloody battles that created the nation of Catalonia in the first place. Nationalism is born of war: the only way to undo all of these wrongs is to abolish the whole notion of nationalism – which would be a great idea, but it’s not what Catalonia is trying to do.

July 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm
(25) Català says:

Dear gospain, Catalans are not nationalists. Catalans are a nation. “Nationalist” is the tag that Spanish “national parties” throw to any position other than accepting that Spain “is the only nation”. I am no more nationalistic than the average Portuguese when he/she assert that they are not Spanish nationals but Portuguese nationals. Yes, I am a Spaniard. However, Spain is a State, not a nation. There are diverse national identities within Spain, and I can’t accept being labeled as a nationalist just because I said that. There are various nations within Turkey as well, and that does not make me a Kurdish nationalist after all.

July 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm
(26) gospain says:

Catala – if you identify with a nation and you advocate the rights of a nation – as opposed to, say, your socio-economic class – then you are a nationalist. I’m sorry if you see the word as having other connotations, but if this debate is going to be clear, we need to stick with the true meanings of the words. By my use of the word ‘nationalist’, I do not mean to imply ‘fascist’ or ‘racist’. In the true definition of these words, there is no difference between ‘Catalans are a nation’ and ‘Catalans are nationalists’.

Nationhood is subjective. As I said above, your assertion that Catalonia is a nation and Spain can only be declared true or false depending on how far back in time you want to go. Categorical statements of facts as you wish to put it are impossible when discussing nationhood.

You are a Catalan and not a Spaniard only because you feel it. You cannot appeal to history to support this. Unfortunately for you, but fortunately for the political stability of the whole world, nation-state borders are not decided on the ‘feelings’ of its inhabitants. If we did, we would create new bordered nations based on sexuality, skin, colour, religion or political party.

As I said above, cultural autonomy – or any other identity – has no logical relationship with political autonomy.

This conversation has departed from its original topic. I will allow a few more replies and then I will close the thread.

July 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm
(27) Català says:

I respectfully disagree. Acknowledging that there are nations is not nationalism. Nationalism consists in defending a nation over the rest. Indeed there is a difference between stating that ‘Catalans are a nation’ and ‘Catalans are nationalists’.


July 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm
(28) gospain says:

But the desire for independence – of which the most salient manifestation would be no more taxes going to Madrid to support poor regions like Andalusia and Extremadura, and more money going to Catalans – is that not defending a nation over the rest?

Just saying ‘Catalonia is a nation’ and then going home to watch the bullfighting on TV is not nationalism. But if you then decide that your nation deserves independence, you must surely be saying your nation would be better off that way (otherwise why would you waste so much time and resources on the struggle?), which would come at the expense of other parts of Spain. By your own definition, that is nationalism.

July 29, 2010 at 3:30 am
(29) Català says:

In the same sense that the desire to administer your own wallet could be considered nationalism, then.

Not really. Catalan separatism stems from the unfulfilled desire of equal treatment within Spain. Money is just another reason (paying more and receiving less than the average is quite unfair in any other place, whether it is considered a nation or not), but stopping cultural minorisation is a must as well. State officials working in Catalonia are not required to speak catalan (and is not “that undisputed” that catalan officials working in Catalonia should be required to -we’re called nazis and fascists in the media regularly because of that-). Knowledge of castillian spanish is compulsory by law for any citizen. Knowledge of Catalan language is not and it won’t be mandatory (like the Constitutional Court just reminded us a month ago) to any citizen living in Catalonia even though both languages are “equally” official within Catalonia. Catalan speakers amount to a 20-25% of the castillian speakers. However, catalan is not allowed in the parliament. Catalan is not recognised in the European Parliament either because Spain does not want to. Catalan language and culture is not promoted with at least a 20% of the funds destined to Spanish (our taxes go there as well). There’s no chance in hell we’ll see a catalan soccer team playing an international contest just as the Scottish or Welsh teams could. Although more than 85% of people residing in catalonia consider themselves as part of a “catalan nation”, the Spanish Constitution states (and, again, the Constitutional Court reiterates) that Spain is the one and only nation and it is against the law to legislate otherwise. State agencies and, most importantly, the judiciary outside Catalonia will not admit nor address to the citizens in catalan. The Central Port Authority is in Madrid, which has not ports whatsoever to begin with. Apply the same logic to just about any other State public department.

All this could be solved by becoming a State, but probably there would be no separatism in Spain if these matters were treated sensibly. And, as you can see I have yet to speak about money, which, as I previosly stated is just another reason.

¡Un saludo!

July 29, 2010 at 3:39 am
(30) Català says:

PS: when I speak of the “judiciary outside Catalonia” I am refering to the top stages of the judicial system, like the “Audiencia Nacional”, the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court, which are competent in all the Spanish State and rule over every Spaniard, but do so only in Spanish language.

July 29, 2010 at 4:57 am
(31) And here we go... says:

What the Spanish right party has to say about the bullfighting ban:

-Jaime Mayor Oreja (Speaker of the Popular Party in the European Parliament): “La prohibición de los toros es una venganza por el éxito de la Selección Española” (Bullfighting Ban is a reprisal for the success of the Spanish soccer team in the World Cup). http://www.elplural.com/politica/detail.php?id=49117

-Mariano Rajoy (President of the Spanish Popular Party and candidate to the presidency of Spain): “¿Adónde vamos a llegar? ¿A que se prohíba la caza, la pesca, las carreras de motos?” (Where are we going? Are we going to forbid hunting, fishing, motorbike races?) http://www.elpais.com/articulo/revista/agosto/Rajoy/convierte/toros/casus/belli/nacional/elpepucul/20100729elpepirdv_4/Tes

-Esperanza Aguirre (President of Madrid, she will replace The PP President Mariano Rajoy in little time): “Todos sabemos que no tiene nada que ver con la protección del medio ambiente, porque nadie cuida más la naturaleza que los criadores de toros bravos, ni tampoco con el maltrato de los animales, porque no hay animal en el mundo que reciba más cuidados que el toro bravo” (We all know that this has nothing to do with the protection of the environment, because nobody takes more care of the nature than those who breed bulls. There’s not a single animal in the world better treated than the fighting bulls). http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2010/07/28/espana/1280312110.html

-Vidal Quadras (former President of the Partido Popular, the Spanish right wing party, in Catalonia): “Es una muestra de totalitarismo propia de la dictadura”. (That’s a display of totalitarianism characteristic of the dictatorship).

July 29, 2010 at 5:27 am
(32) And here we go... says:


El Mundo is the second newspaper in Spain by the number of readers. The picture shows Montilla and Carod-Rovira (President and Vicepresident of Catalonia) and the headline “Triunfaron los animales” means the “animals triumphed”. El Mundo is not exactly supportive of the ban on bullfighting. Catalans endure this kind of things daily.

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