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Bullfights in Spain: The beginning of the end?
The Independent Institute
The decision by the parliament of the Spanish region of Catalonia to ban bullfighting after 2012 is an assault on individual rights. If Catalonian nationalists are to be consistent, they should prohibit meat and foie gras too. But, consistency is not among their virtues. Bullfighting has preserved an entire breed of cattles. The only wrong aspect of bullfighting is government subsidization of it, writes Alvaro Vargas Llosa in The Independent Institute Newsroom.
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Bullfighting has been debated for centuries, and banned by popes and governments.


But the decision by the parliament of the Spanish region of Catalonia to proscribe bullfighting after 2012 is the greatest victory ever for the detractors of the sport. It was taken in a country that is the very birthplace of the corridas, at a time when global pressure groups are using politically correct subterfuges to demonize traditions.

For Catalonian nationalists, bullfighting is a weapon against Spain.


The moral case of Catalan politicians would have been credible if meat and foie gras had also been prohibited, or if they had not made an exception for correbous, a ritual in southern Catalonia that involves lighting fire to a bull’s horns and dragging it by the tail. But moral consistency is not part of Catalonian nationalism, whose encroachments on local freedoms are shameless.

Bullfighting’s detractors have every right not to go to a corrida, to skewer the sport in the media and to demonstrate against it. But banning it is a totalitarian act. Spaniards at large have understood this.


It is possible that bullfighting will wither as a widespread cultural tradition.


But do I have the right, as a bullfighting fan, to forcefully shield youths from outside influences to preserve this cultural tradition that in its modern version dates back to the eighteenth century? I have no more right to do that than the Catalan parliament has to decree the extinction of the tradition.

Many forms of animal treatment are cruel.

Anyone familiar with some of the methods involved would consider bullfighting, where the matador risks much more than do butchers, a less gory and one-sided confrontation.

Taken to its logical extreme, the argument against bullfighting would deprive humans of any animal-related food. It would get rid of grazing cows that degrade the ecosystems. Since farming threatens the ecosystem, we would have to dispatch that too. If the undoing of all domination over nature is what critics want, that is exactly what they should argue for.


Spain’s national fiesta has preserved an entire breed of cattle for the last three centuries. The bullfighting bull would probably be extinct—in the manner of its ancestor, the Aurochs, in the 17th century—were it not for the selective breeding and care with which the animals are raised on Spanish and Latin American ranches.


One aspect of bullfighting does deserve condemnation—government subsidies. About 500 million euros are spent annually by the European Union and the three levels of the Spanish government. Would bullfighting disappear without the subsidies? It might. But this is a decision for free individuals to make. Culture that lives on diktats ceases to be culture.

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This article was published in the The Independent Institute
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