One of the fundamentals of our work is to set standards that make it a crime to engage in malicious cruelty to animals. The nations of the world should have a zero-tolerance policy for the torture of animals, and for specific types of torment like dogfighting, cockfighting and bullfighting. Animal protection efforts tend to get held back in countries where these forms of cruelty are tolerated.
Spain has always been viewed as a redoubt of bullfighting. In the face of shrinking foreign tourism and in-country support for bullfighting, Spanish politicians threw bullfighting a lifeline last February by voting in favor of plans to declare it part of Spain’s cultural heritage. This plan would allow fight organizers to apply for tax breaks and other financial incentives, could reverse the bans already in place in Catalonia and the Canary Islands, and make it much more difficult to introduce new regional bans in the future.
As the Spanish government debates this proposed new law, an Ipsos MORI public opinion poll, commissioned by Humane Society International, shows that the majority of Spaniards do not approve of public funds being used for this blood sport, and that three-quarters of the population haven’t attended a bullfight in the last five years. Only 29 percent of Spanish people support bullfighting – this represents an amazing turn-around in public opinion, and is a marker of the emerging animal protection ethos throughout the world.
There is a vocal minority of bullfighting enthusiasts whose only defense seems to be that the blood sport is a tradition. This hackneyed line of argument just doesn’t hold up as a defense for any form of animal cruelty.
Every culture has its traditions. Century-old practices remind us who we used to be as a society. Traditions, however, are like the societies that created them – ever evolving, in terms of fairness and justice. In Spain, and in many other countries, popular support for bullfighting is rightfully on the decline, and the Spanish government should embrace this shift in its citizen’s values, and not cling to age-old cruelties.