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Monday, March 29, 2010

Thousands March To Protest Bullfighting In Spain

Thousands March Against Bullfighting In Spanish Capital

MalaysiaKini Mar 29, 2010

Several thousand people marched through the streets of Madrid Sunday to call for bullfighting to be outlawed amid a growing national debate over the practice which animal activists condemn as a form of torture.

The protest was organised by about 50 animal rights and anti-bullfighting groups in response to plans by the conservative regional government of Madrid to declare bullfighting part of the region's cultural heritage, which would give it some legal protection.

Mireya Barbeto, spokeswoman for the tiny anti-bullfighting political party PACMA, said the march demonstrated society's "rejection" of the measure, which the regional governments of Valencia and Murcia are also planning to take.

"In Madrid over 70 percent of the population rejects these acts of barbarism and torture, a national shame," she told AFP.

Some 20,000 people took part in the protests, which had as a slogan "Torture is Not Culture", according to the party. Police gave no estimate but the online edition of daily El Pais put the number of participant at between 2,000-3,000.

"Embarrassing and cruel ritual from yesterday's Spain!" and "Neither art nor culture. Torture!" were among some of the slogans on display on signs. Some featured pictures of slain bulls in a bullfighting arena in a pool of blood.

A large number of the participants at the demonstration were under the age of 30.

Earlier this month the head of the regional government of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, said she planned to declare bullfighting part of the region's cultural heritage, arguing it had been a source of inspiration for painters like Goya and Picasso and authors such as Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway.

"It's an art that has been in our culture as long as we can remember," she told reporters as she posed with a matador's cape.

The announcement by Aguirre, who political commentators say has ambitions to lead the main opposition Popular Party, comes as the regional parliament of the northeastern region of Catalonia is considering a ban on bullfighting as requested by a petition signed by over 180,000 voters.

If the motion is approved in Catalonia, home to Barcelona, Spain's second-largest city, it would become the first region in the country, outside of the Canary Islands, to ban the practice.

The wealthy region, where many seek independence from Spain, has led opposition to bullfighting, in part due to a desire among some Catalans to strike a separate identity from the rest of the country.

In 2003 it passed a sweeping animal protection law that restricted towns without bullrings from building them and prohibited all children under 14 from attending bullfights.

During the right-wing dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, bullfighting was promoted as a unifying national spectacle.

But its mass appeal has faded with polls showing a rising disinterest in bullfighting throughout Spain, especially among the young, although it retains a passionate following and leading matadors are treated as celebrities - AFP


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