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EVANA Interview - Francisco Martin about bullfights:
'Fellow sentient beings are systematically and senselessly slaughtered without any purpose, other than to satisfy an unnatural and depraved lust for blood'
Francisco Martin is the founder of the Spanish Vegan Society and an international author of countless articles on animal rights and vegetarianism. He introduced the word "vegano" into the Spanish language and speaks half a dozen languages. Francisco is a Patron and Fellow of the IVU.
Francisco has always opposed bullfighting. He founded ALA - now Equanimal -, a Spanish animal liberation group in the 1980's, and has since campaigned for a ban of bullfighting, a ban which will first come to a vote on the 28th of July 2010 in Catalonia.
A decision to outlaw this bloody tradition by the Catalan Parliament will have a domino effect all over Spain and the few other countries where bullfights are still blatantly excluded from even the most basic animal protection laws, which should clearly ban any form of institutionalised public torture of sentient beings in the name of "art", or the sake of profit.
We asked him for his opinion on the worldwide repercussions of a ban on bullfighting in Catalonia.
25 July 2010
EVANA: Do you think the ILP (Legislative Popular Initiative) motion to strengthen the Catalan animal protection law will be passed? If bullfights are banned there on July 28th, what could be the possible outcome for the bloody bullrings of Spain and other countries where proper animal protection laws are not implemented because bulls and horses are legally allowed to be tortured?
Francisco: Although the bullfighting lobby is strong politically and even the king actively supports the public torture and slaughter of animals, I believe the laws will be changed and bullfights will be banned first in Catalonia. This will have a domino effect on the whole country where politicians are well behind their electors and have not yet realised that a significant majority of Spaniards oppose such institutionalised torture with public money. Once public funding and support is withdrawn, bullfights will no longer be viable in Spain and the few other countries where weak animal protection laws still allow such bloody spectacles.
EVANA: Are there any other regions where bullfights have been banned, or which oppose such gory traditions?
Francisco: Yes, the Canary Islands banned bullfights in 1991, but the last spectacle there took place in 1984, and there has not been any local support at all for over 60 years. This is also the general opinion of aficionados regarding the Canary Islands, where cockfights are still allowed in some areas. However, when it comes to the rest of Spain, they exaggerate the number of supporters of spectacles where animals are tortured and killed. According to a poll in 2006, 72,10% of Spaniards are not at all interested in bullfights and only 7,40% are very interested, while 80% of Catalans are not at all interested.
EVANA: Does Spain have animal protection laws and, if so, are they implemented? Why are bulls excluded from such protection?
Francisco: Spain does not have an animal protection law and the only reference regarding the mistreatment of animals is in article 632 of the Spanish Penal code, which punishes cruelty to domestic or other animals in unauthorised spectacles, which excludes bulls and horses tortured and killed in the bullrings with the blessing of the Catholic Church.
Animal protection is the responsibility of the various autonomous regions, but mistreatment of animals carries only a fine from only a few Euros to thousands of Euros, the fines levied are normally in the lower range, except for televised or highly publizised cases which carry higher penalties.
EVANA: Are Spanish officials and politicians concerned about the negative implications of bullfighting for the country? Do they care about Spain´s international reputation?
Francisco: Such awareness may now be seen more prominently in Catalonia, but most politicians have yet to understand...or acknowledge that there is a clear majority of Spanish people that condemn bullfights and cruelty to animals, as all private and public polls always show.
Few Spaniards or foreigners know that bullfighting was illegal until a Royal Decree issued by King Juan Carlos I (176/1992) overturned a previous ban issued in 1790 and reiterated in 1805 (when some exceptions were made and charity bullfights were tolerated with the false pretense of raising funds for charitable purposes).
Juan Carlos' open support for bullfights is clearly an outrage, particularly because as the head-of-state and Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish Armed Forces, he is acting unconstitutionally by promoting a cruel spectacle condemned by the majority of the people he has the duty to represent.
EVANA: Can you give us an overview of the past and present legal status of bullfighting in Spain. Why are they still being subsidised?
Francisco: In 1565, a Church Council in Toledo to remedy abuses in the kingdom of Spain, declared bullfights "very unpleasant to God", and Pius V promulgated the Papal Bull "De Salutis Gregis Dominici" asking for the abolition of bullfights in 1567, threatening to excommunicate those that supported them. The decree was later changed to comply with the wishes of king Philip II, but was finally cancelled in 1596.
An initiative by the Count of Aranda, a minister of Charles III, who tried to modify the country's customs, led through various stages to the total abolition of bullfighting by 1790, including the running of young and older bulls through the streets, either tied or untied with a rope... traditions that in 2010 are again legal!
The bullfight lobby is very powerful and influential and they have imposed bullfights on the Spanish people through politics as well as the media and, like the Church, they have always hindered progress towards a more humane society by sabotaging any effective animal protection legislation against cruel spectacles. However, without national and European subsidies of some 600 million Euros a year, and an increasing lack of interest among the young, such spectacles would not continue because they would not be sustainable financially.
EVANA: Polls show that most Spanish citizens are opposed to bullfights. Are they more popular in some regions and is support conditioned by age or culture?
Francisco: I have just voted on one of the many current polls; one from an Andalusian TV channel, and the result to date was 87% against the spectacle with only13% support. A typical score, regardless the political sympathies of the particular media involved. Though support varies depending on the region, the particular towns and the age of the population, nowhere is there any widespread support for the bloody bullfights within Spain.
Cataluña, considered by aficionados as one of the most important historical areas of support, is about to abolish the cruel so called fiesta, and other regions, like Madrid, Andalusia and Valencia, are not far behind in their desire to rid the country of such a cultural blight, having been unable to do so mainly because their animal protection legislation lags behind the one in Catalonia ...this, together with a lack of political democracy, plus the lobbying of bullfighting interest groups is to blame for the current situation.
EVANA: What is the situation regarding the mind-boggling campaign by the bullfighting lobby to declare Spanish bullfights part of the world's cultural heritage? Is this related to the latest news about the intention of the regional government of Madrid to declare bullfighting an "Asset of Cultural Interest" worthy of protection? Do you think such absurd ideas have any chance of success?
Francisco: The bullfighting lobby is trying hard to stop anti-bullfight legislation in the few countries where they can still legally torture and kill animals, because that will bring a quick end to their bloody spectacle. They desperately need some kind of legislation to shield or sell their bloody "fiesta" either as a special form of art or an essential part of the national or international heritage to be preserved. While they may feel they have the political clout and support to achieve their objective, such an outcome is highly unlikely to succeed at the local or international level.
In Madrid, a lack of proper animal protection legislation, combined with the support they get from the conservative political party in power, has allowed them to boast about their undemocratic intentions, precisely the same way they have imposed the bloody "fiesta". The government may have the political power to carry through their ill intentions, or so they think, but neither the citizens of Madrid nor the rest of Spain would allow it. I share the view of Javier de Lucas, Dean of the Philosophy of Law at the University of Valencia, who said that such a declaration is "incomprehensible because it is unjustified, unless motivated by electoral opportunism",..or just plain family interests, since Esperanza Aguirre, President of the autonomous region of Madrid, and her husband the Count Murillo own land dedicated to breeding cows and bulls, that is worth millions.
EVANA: We have seen debates where the presence of children in bloody spectacles has been questioned, even though Spanish TV channels broadcast them and anyone can watch them. What is the situation nowadays?
Francisco: There are national and regional TV channels, public and private, that broadcast seven pro-bullfight programmes during the hours when children need protection from such explicit and real violence, as required by article 22 of the European Directive to protect children from programmes containing pornographic scenes or gratuitous violence. Spaniards have been and are still regularly exposed to bullfighting scenes, street posters announcing the next spectacle or news which rather than question the public torture of animals, extol the exploits of the killers or matadores.
The public channel TVE stopped broadcasting full bullfighting events in 2006, and showed one episode of "Vopo", a German cartoon programme aimed at 3-5 year old children, with a strong anti-bullfight message, but they still report on bullfighting events. In some ways the situation is improving, however, regarding the attendance of children to such spectacles, the existing law from the 1920's, prohibiting children younger than 14 from attending, was simply eliminated when bullfights were legalized in 1992.
EVANA: Malaga is one of the hot spots for bullfights. How do you cope living near a public abattoir meant for entertainment?
Francisco: I am miles away from the bullring, but while participating in any protest, one experiences a very unpleasant feeling; the more so the nearer you are to these public slaughterhouses.
This year on Saturday the 9th of August, 114 people wearing black shorts, representing the number of bulls that will be killed during the festivities in Malaga, will lie down in protest with banderillas or darts on the back and blood on the body to symbolize the bull´s skin.
My feelings from a previous protest, with 1000 people outside the ring, were mixed: I felt a deep sense of outrage that made all of us want to enter en masse and stop the massacre going on inside, motivated by an attitude of "We are not going to take it any longer", combined with a strong sense of rejection and abhorrence of an abattoir where fellow sentient beings are systematically and senselessly slaughtered without any purpose, other than to satisfy an unnatural and depraved lust for blood.
EVANA: Francisco, thank you for talking with us. We wish you all the best and much success in your fight against subsidised massacres in bullrings in Spain and elsewhere.
Link: Francisco Martín: Corridas de toros, el arte del engaño
Link: Francisco Martin: The Ethical Vegetarian consumer
Link: Locations against bullfighting
Other EVANA-articles about this topic:
Spain: Animal torture declared as 'artistic discipline and cultural product" (en)
Bullfighting as UNESCO-World cultural heritage -- NO THANKS (en)
Spain's Catalonia bans bullfighting (en)
Identity Debate at Heart of Spanish Bullfighting Vote ()
Mexican bullfighter stable after goring in southern Spain (en)
Perhaps surprisingly in the 21st Century, bullfights still exist in several countries of the world (en)
Book: Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier 'Bullfighting; A Troubled History' (en)
Why bullfighting is making Spain see red (en)