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Bullfighting remains legal in France
France's Constitutional Council on Friday rejected a demand by animal rights organisations to ban bullfighting in the southern areas of the country where it is still authorised. Advocates say the blood sport is part of their cultural heritage.
France’s Constitutional Council on Friday rejected a request by animal rights campaigners to ban bullfighting, which is legal in certain regions of southern France.
Anti-bullfighting group CRAC said they would appeal a ruling that was “politically motivated” and “proved that the Constitutional Council is anything but independent”.
“How can this possibly be a logical decision when the majority of people in France support a ban?” CRAC President Jean-Pierre Garrigues told FRANCE 24, pointing out that a CSA poll carried out this week showed 57 percent of French people in favour of a ban.
An IFOP survey carried out on Thursday showed 48 percent supporting outright abolition of bullfighting (known in France by its Spanish name corrida) and 42 percent saying the tradition should remain legal.
“Just because corrida is a tradition does not mean that it should not and cannot be banned. Dogfighting was a tradition; it is [now] illegal and rightly so."
“France has laws that criminalise cruelty to animals. How can we possibly allow certain cities to glorify the torture and murder of animals for the pleasure of a few spectators?”
‘Something that I love’
France holds dozens of corrida-style bullfights every year in southern cities such as Nîmes, Arles and Bayonne.
Corrida originated in Spain and involves elaborate fights that conclude with a matador, complete with red cape and sword, delivering the “coup de grace” to kill the injured and enraged animal.
Another form of bullfighting, known in France as course libre, outdates the introduction of corrida, which was bought to France in the mid-19th century.
Course libre is a mostly bloodless sport in which participants try to snatch rosettes tied between a bull’s horns. The majority of casualties are of the human kind.
But more than 1,000 bulls a year meet their deaths in French corrida events, which supporters insist are an important part of local tradition attracting tens of thousands of paying spectators.
Corrida also has high-profile political supporters, including Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who infuriated opponents early in September by passionately defending the tradition as “something that I love, which is part of my family’s culture”.
Valls, who was born in Spain and moved to France as a child, said corrida was “a culture which we have to preserve – we need these roots and we should not tear them out.”
For Garrigues, Valls’s intervention proved that the decision had been politically motivated.
Former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy “had done everything possible to block anti-corrida legislation,” he said, adding that the intervention of the interior minister “undoubtedly influenced the Constitutional Council”.
“We live in a bullfighting dictatorship,” he said.
Economic benefits to southern cities
Corrida’s defenders say the tradition brings huge economic benefits to southern French cities, especially important as France labours under the financial crisis.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists attend week-long ferias (traditional festivals) with bullfights as a central attraction.
Banning the sport would have "dramatic" consequences for southern economies, Genevieve Darrieusecq, the mayor of Mont-de-Marsan and head of the UVTF association of French towns that host bullfights, told AFP.
"It would damage the attractiveness of our festivals and have economic effects on hotels and restaurants," she said.
Defending bullfighting is ‘defending tradition’
Pro-corrida associations welcomed Friday’s ruling. Laurent Deloye, a journalist who specialises in bullfighting and is head of the Corrida France association, said he was “relieved” that the court had upheld the constitutional legality of the sport.
“I was never in any doubt though,” he told FRANCE 24. “I have faith in the laws of my country.”
Deloye said corrida remained an important part of southern French culture, while acknowledging that many French people, especially in the north of the country where there is no bullfighting tradition, found the idea difficult.
“I too am a defender of animal rights,” he insisted. “But bullfighting specifically involves fighting bulls representing their breed’s highest quality. Defending bullfighting is about tradition as well as defending this breed of bulls.”
Jean-Pierre Garrigues, meanwhile, said CRAC and other anti-corrida associations would appeal the Constitutional Council’s ruling.
Another line of attack, he said, would be to mobilise CRAC’s “500,000 supporters” to lobby their Members of Parliament so that the sport could be banned “by our democratically-elected representatives now that the constitutional council has proven itself to be politically influenced.”
“And we will continue peaceful direct action against this barbaric sport,” he said. “We will go to the arenas and we will put ourselves in the way of the killing.”