Catalonia bullfighting ban: a breeder fights back

Photo © Lauren Girardin, used with permission.

The Catalan parliament voted on Wednesday to outlaw the controversial practice of bullfighting across the region, making Catalonia the first Spanish province to end the centuries-old tradition.

The tight and bitter vote pitted animal rights activists, who produced a petition of 180,000 signatures in favor of the ban, against fans of the national symbol. Last January, when the voting process began, a breeder told us us why he thought the law was more about politics than animal rights.


“They hate Spain, not animal cruelty”

Alejandro Melgarejo is a toros bravos breeder whose family has been raising bulls for bullfighting for two centuries. They own a ranch in La Mancha (the central region south of Madrid).

The problem in Catalonia has nothing to do with animal rights; it's more about politics. There is a strong separatist movement in that area and they will use anything regarded as Spanish to attack Spain. Not by the whole population; mainly by local politicians. On the contrary, in French Catalonia bullfighting is on the rise. They love it. They've got very great plazas over there.

The corrida is still supported by the majority of Spanish people, although gone are the days when it was bigger than football. The majority of the country - including Catalans - are not concerned by the allegations of animal cruelty. Our bulls are brought up and live peacefully in the countryside before dying in the plaza with honour. The way bulls are killed for meat is crueller

It's quite expensive to raise a bull on a ranch - from when the bull is taken away from its mother up to the point of selling it at four years old, the cost amounts to €6,000. You must own land in the countryside or rent it, and hire ‘vaqueros' (cowboys who are in charge of moving the herd around in search for water). And those cowboys need horses.  For the last five months the bulls are fed with grain. Finally, a set of five bulls which weigh almost exactly the same are sold to the plaza.

The breed is the result of centuries of genetic engineering by ranchers. To produce the best calves, the breeder has to test all their cattle for three traits: encaste, nobleza and bravura - in all, the animal's level of courage in the face of suffering and pain. For the females, this is done by taunting the cow with a red cape, which they charge at. Males however aren't tested with a cape because when they see the cape in the plaza it must be for the first time. Males instead have to charge against a big horse protected with a thick cover and themselves get jabbed in the back to provoke anger, which causes some blood loss.

These tests are done to find out which animals are bravest and most suitable for the plaza. The job is carried out by the breeder during the spring before the bullfighting season. The cattle undergo a thorough selection process. The creatures with the best features need to be brave, noble and easily infuriated. Once the best three bulls (stud bulls) have been chosen and the best cows, then they are set up to mate.

In total we have between 250 and 300 cattle on the ranch. Of these, three sets of five bulls at four years old, and three or four sets at three years old, are sold each year to the plaza. Of the rest, they are sold off to small plazas and local fiesta activities, like bull running.

This year has been very hard for us. The financial crisis has meant that many small towns have had to cancel their yearly fiesta. Across all of Spain, the number of corridas held fell by 50% from 2008 to 2009. On our ranch, two of the sets weren't sold and the plaza is yet to pay for the third one."

Photos of bulls on Alejandro's ranch in La Mancha:

Bullfight filmed in Barcelona, Sep. 2007:

Posted by “michaelsradics”. 

Animal cruelty protestors in Catalonia

Demonstrations against bullfighting have been staged in Catalonia for over a century. Over the past few decades, the protests have attracted increasing numbers of foreign campaigners. The following photos were taken in spring 2008 and posted by "alezarg", Nov. 26, 2008.

"Enough! Torture is neither art nor culture"

"Not in Catalunia nor anywhere else"


While it is true that

While it is true that Catalans are sick and tired of being in an abusive relationship with Spain, and now are looking towards independence as the only solution after three decades of dialogue that has gotten Catalonia nowhere, - let us not get caught up with the discursive talking points of the PP (Partido Popular) and the centralist government hailing from Madrid.

Although it is true that bullfights, the bull (and even flamenco for that matter) is not representative of Catalan culture, this is NOT an issue of banning bull fighting as a way to distance the region from Spain. It is regrettable that the international press has bought into the political discourse and talking points of the centralist government from Madrid which has conveniently (purposefully) ignored the numerous public opinion polls regarding whether, and on what grounds, should bullfighting be banned in Catalonia (an example can be found below):

The above poll asks whether bullfighting should be banned, options are as follow:
a) no, because it is part of Catalan culture
b) no because the practice, in the region, would have died out eventually on its own
c) yes, because it is a Spanish festival (tradition)
d) no, because it is a violation of animal rights

And which do you think the outcome of this (and a half a dozen polls like it) was? In all of the polls, over 70% of the public chose the option regarding animal rights and/or animal abuse

No doubt feeding the polarizing political discourse of the centralist government of Spain makes for more sensationalist reporting, but it also makes for one-sided, biased, and irresponsible journalism.

Hopefully, your readers will chose to be better informed.

While it's true that some

While it's true that some Catalonian congressmen voted against bullfighting because they believe this is a violation of animal rights, it's also true that others voted pro-banning just because they can't stand to be identified with something that relates them to Spain. Party Members of Esquerra Republicana de Cataluña is a good example of what I saying and nobody honest to himself can deny this fact. You may want to ignore this, but that's exactly what happened. Another good example of this argument is that most Catalonia Congressmen that voted pro-banning bullfighting, denied this possibility for another "festival" that takes place in Catalonia and that is called CORREBOUS. CORREBOUS is considered to be a CATALONIAN tradition and although the bull is not killed in this case it is as cruel as bullfighting may be.
While it's true that some Catalans would like to change their relationship with Spain it's also true that there are millions that are happy with what they are: Spaniards. The catalan political class is however very much interested in opening gaps between us (the catalans and the rest of the Spanish People)

catalonian hypocrisy

I cannot believe catalonian hypocrisy. The same day they ban "corridas" they celebrate in Tarragona "el toro embolao" where a bull runs amock with his horns on fire.
I'm a Spaniard and -like millions of my fellow countrymen- want all those traditions ban for ever.
Sadly, some of your comments are merely insults to Spain (another sad tradition amongst the uninformed) but FYI: 73% of Spaniards dislike or could not care less about bullfights.

Bullfighting: right or wrong?

Oh, yes, before you ask, I love Spain and the Spanish people. I would not hesitate to move to Spain if I could convince my wife that not all Spanish people are sadistic animal abusers.

Rights or wrongs of bullfighting

When I first visited Spain many, many years ago, a friend took me to a bullfight on the outskirts of Torrevieja. I must admit, hand on heart, that I looked forward to it. By the end of the spectacle, I was sickened by the whole thing. I've photographed butchery in an abattoir in Wales - or as is more acceptably known, meat purveyance - and I think I prefer the word butchery. It holds no pretence. An animal is taken to an abattoir, shot through the brain, then made into steaks and chops and stuff. It's all over in minutes. A life here, meat there. In a bull ring, the animal is stabbed and tortured to the end of its life: without mercy; without possibilty of parole. In the end, a tatty old car with chains on the rear is brought in and the carcass/body/meat is dragged out to be chopped and hung outside the arena, - I assume for the benefit of local Carne purveyors.
There is no elegance: there is no dignity: at least, not for the bull. All there is, is adulation for someone who chooses to go into an arena, (the Toreador/picador/matador) knowing that he is going to win a very one sided fight against a creature who would not choose to be there: not choose such an ignominious end to its life.
Sorry, but it is NOT art; like it or not, this is murder.


Your comments are well-phrased and, as the British would say, 'spot on'. It is a barbaric practice whose time has come to END. I am more than tired of this sort of thing being viewed as 'honorable', cultural', 'brave', and the like. If Spain wants to stay mired in the 14th-century, let them. But they need to end animal torture. Oh wait - I forgot! Spain was the host of the Spanish Inquisition, where unspeakable tortures were developed. Maybe it really is their brainless custom. How sad that they're not content to emphasize their other contributions to the world.

Animal rights people should

Animal rights people should stay away from the event if they do not like to see bull fighting. Those who enjoy fighting must be left in peace!

I think you've missed the

I think you've missed the point of what an animal rights activist does. By your logic people who kill animals for entertainment should be left in peace?

Somebody has to defend these poor animals...this is 2010 time to change.

shame of this animal turture.

i remember i was in Spain last year in Malaga with my girl fiend and we just saw bullfighting for first time in real, my girl friend was crying for nearly 3 hours when we saw how the blood man who called stupid Matador ( killer, murder, barbaric) how torture the poor animal to death.
i will personally ask all human being,to struggle to ban this barbaric and animal torture,
this is not dark age any more, this is 21 century, where is humanity, shame of Spanish people. this is not culture, this is barbaric and dark age stupidity.
if once torture this barbaric Matador with sharp bloody sword then he will realized the pain, the blood, the torture,...

regards to the human right.

Is bullfighting really barbaric?

It depends how you define cruelty and which your core values are. It may be, but I personnally believe that It's much more cruel to a kill a human fetus before its birth just because you think you're not ready to have it or murdering a human being because the death penaly is legal in your country (for example if you're american or japanese). Is "bullfighting" more cruel than hunting that basically means killing an animal just for the pleasure of it? Is goose feeding fair to the animal? Is "circus slavery" fair to the animal? What about the Aquariums where delphins get sick of going around a 40 meters radius swimming pool?
You personally think that bullfighting is barbaric and that's fine. But please fix all those unfair practices first and when those are fixed then come to tell me what I got to do.