A deputy seeks to give the final blow to bullfighting in France

Thousands of fans dressed in white, with a red scarf tied around their necks, attend bullfights in the south of France like every summer, a practice that a deputy of the new French Assembly hopes to ban.

“The run [es] an immoral spectacle, which no longer has a place in the 21st century,” says anti-species deputy Aymeric Caron, who confirmed to AFP his intention to present a bill this week, before the summer parliamentary break.

France does not escape the latent debate in the rest of the countries with bullfights: Spain, Portugal, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. In June, a Mexican judge suspended them indefinitely in Plaza México, the largest in the world.

Caron’s initiative is not the first that seeks to ban bullfighting in France, but none of those presented since 2004 prospered, simply staying on the record without having a parliamentary debate or vote on it.

Caron trusts that, on this occasion, the deputies will be able to debate it in “November”, but first he must convince his group France Insumisa (LFI, radical left) to give it priority and find allies to ban them.

Its objective is to modify article 521-1 of the Penal Code, which punishes animal abuse with up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($76,750), but allows bullfights when “an uninterrupted local tradition” can be invoked.

The exemption applies to the southern third of France, whether in the south-west close to Spain around the squares of Bayonne, Dax, Mont-de-Marsan and Vic-Fesenzac, or on the shores of the Mediterranean, around Nimes, Arles or Beziers.

“It is not a French tradition, it is a Spanish tradition that was imported to France in the mid-19th century to please the wife of Napoleon III [Eugenia de Montijo]who was Andalusian”, assures the deputy for Paris, for whom it is not “art” either.

– “Preserving tradition” –

“Those who want to ban it don’t know about it. Bullfighting is a tragedy, it’s close to death. It’s almost an anachronism that it still exists because people no longer live with death,” says Jean-Luc Ambert, a French fan.

Ambert visits Bayonne with her friends, whose streets are filled with music and alcohol by thousands of tourists at the end of July for the popular “Fair”. For her friend Françoise, bullfighting is a “solemn spectacle”.

On this July afternoon, the “white” bullfight of six bulls has as its protagonist the Spanish matador Alejandro Talavante, who, according to the chronicle of the regional newspaper Sud-Ouest, signs a performance with “ear and applause”.

“Tradition must be preserved. I like bullfighting and I don’t see why anyone would forbid me from coming to see it,” Christian, a sixty-year-old who prefers not to give his last name, told AFP.

For André Viard, president of the National Observatory of Bullfighting Cultures –a pro-bullfighting association–, banning bullfighting is a “recurring” issue in each legislature. The new proposition “we treat as such,” he says.

– What allies? –

In France, from the radical left to the right, deputies of various tendencies have in the past registered bills to ban bullfighting, an initiative less common among parliamentarians from bullfighting regions.

Viard warns the political groups: “What is the point of being associated with this political proposal [de LFI] that goes against cultural freedom, protected by the Constitution, and the identity of the territories?

Caron advocates first for his group and his left-wing allies, but hopes that it will be “cross-party, at least in the opposition” and points to the “unknown” of the ruling party, especially the parliamentary leader of President Emmanuel Macron’s party.

Aurore Bergé called for an end to this “barbaric practice”, in a platform in July 2021 signed by several centrist or right-wing deputies. “Will he be faithful to his convictions or will he have a political calculation that prevents him from supporting me?” Caron wonders skeptically.

The relationship of forces is delicate since Macron lost his absolute majority in June. But, for Christophe Marie, from the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, an animal activist, there is “a favorable context to discuss a strong social expectation.”

“People are increasingly sensitive to the suffering of animals, including bullfighting,” says Claire Starozinski, president of the Anticorrida Alliance, for whom many people are unaware that bulls are killed during the fight.

In the middle of the bullfighting season, his association thus launched an “unprecedented” advertising campaign on television, in the form of a gathering with experts, to denounce this practice. From August 1 to August 15, you must pass 300 times in four chains.

According to a survey carried out by Ifop-Fiducial at the end of January on animal welfare, 77% of French people support banning bullfights, a percentage that has increased from the 50% registered in September 2007.

Another poll with more options from Ifop-Fiducial carried out that month states that 55% of French people support “total prohibition”, compared to 32% in bullfighting cities. In both cases, a majority opposes killing the animal (78% and 61%, respectively).


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