Bye, Bye, Bullshit

On the 25th of September, in the Monumental bullring, and for the last time in Catalonia, six bulls were stabbed to death for purposes of entertainment. As foreign journalists - including the Spanish ones - have given confusing accounts of the whys and wherefores of the ban, it is maybe worth remembering that the whole thing started as a simple collection of signatures organised by a politically non-aligned NGO calle Prou ('Enough'). Under Catalan law, if a minimum of 50.000 signatures concerning any proposal whatsoever can be garnered within 120 days, that proposal must, perforce, be debated and voted on in the Catalan Parliament. Prou got over 180.000 signatures in the allotted time. On July 28th, 2010, the bullfighting ban was duly approved by parliament, by 68 votes to 55. Although the defenders of this fancy form of slaughter loudly accused its opponents of being motivated by selfish (Catalan) nationalism, the latter - whatever their ulterior motives - stuck to their humanitarian guns and insisted that this was not a nationalist issue but an animal rights one. Whereas the pro-bullfight lobby, oddly enough, insisted that the corridas were part of the Spanish national patrimony, that they represented Spanish national culture, and that as Catalonia was part of Spain, it too had to share in this Spanish cultural tradition. Surely only the wilfully deaf could deny that such arguments do sound, well, nationalist. (Not for nothing did the owners of the Monumental raise a Spanish flag over the building, weeks before the final bullfight). Both the pro and anti bullfight lobbies in parliament acknowledged that bullfighting had, historically, been popular in Catalonia (in 1833, half Barcelona was set alight by citizens enraged by a mediocre bullfight). The received wisdom is that it took Franco's enthuasiastic endorsement of the spectacle, post-1939, to put most Catalans off it for good. In fact, it seems that bullfighting was under attack in Catalonia long before that: in his memoirs of his life as a tramp and petty thief in France ('Camins de França') the writer and politician Joan Puig i Ferreter describes an encounter with two young Frenchmen who, hearing he's from Barcelona, predictably go: "If you're Spanish, you must like bullfighting!" Puig continues: 'I explain to him that we Catalans are no friends to bullfighting, that Catalanism is opposed to them, and that bullfighting is just one of the many plagues that come from backward Spain'. The year this encounter took place? 1903. 108 years later, attendance at the Monumental had dwindled to a few busloads of tourists wheeled in to fill about a quarter of the stadium in the summer season. The parliamentary ban, in other words, was simply the last nail in bullfighting's already sealed coffin.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, novembre de 2011 


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