SPAIN’S most controversial past-time has been officially recognised as ‘an artistic discipline and cultural product’.
Fuelling the debate between aficionados and animal rights campaigners the government has announced that the ministry of culture will now be responsible for the ‘development and protection’ of bullfighting.
The ministry said in a statement: “As it is understood that bullfighting is an artistic discipline and a cultural product, it was considered that the ministry of culture was the correct place for its development and protection.”
It comes after bullfighting organisations mounted pressure on the government to protect the industry following last year’s decision to ban the sport in Catalonia.
And supporters see the change in status as a step towards protecting the tradition from further regional bans.
Juan Diego from the Bullfighters Union said the decision was necessary ‘for the protection and guardianship of bullfighting’ and he called the sport ‘a symbol of Spanish cultural heritage that shapes the national identity.’
But opponents, who label bullfighting a barbaric blood sport, have accused the government of abandoning its commitment to animal rights.
Silvia Barquero, spokeswoman for Pacma, an anti-bullfighting political party said the decision to switch responsibility was ‘complete nonsense … a measure which sends us back to the Middle Ages’.
It comes after the Catalan regional government voted to ban bullfighting last July – by 68 votes to 55 – on the grounds it is cruel and outdated.
The ban, which has not been affected by this latest decision, will be the first to be introduced in mainland Spain when it comes into effect next January.