MORE than 100,000 people have signed an online petition against Spain’s government ‘bailing out’ its struggling bullfighting industry.

The AnimaNaturalis.org petition claimed Spain’s bullfighting sector has requested an emergency meeting with Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribe, to study possibilities of economic recovery and support.

It says the cancellation of ‘200 bullfights and 1,684 fiestas’ from March until late summer – due to the coronavirus state of alarm – will be a ‘severe blow’ to the controversial sport.

“In the face of the COVID19 crisis, we have a unique opportunity to leave behind its privileges of the past, to build a world without bullfighting,” the petition read.

It comes as industry leaders fear the industry will be one of the worst hit due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bullfighter Cayetano Rivera posted recently on social media, after events such as Pamplona’s iconic San Fermin was cancelled, that ‘the bullfighting sector is – and will be – one of the most affected by the dramatic situation that we’re living through’.

With the virus threatening to wipe out much of the season, which runs until October, he appealed to Spaniards to consider the tens of thousands of people thrown out of work as the industry struggles.

“We can’t forget the many people and families who depend, either directly or indirectly, on the bullfighting world to live,” he added.

Victorino Martín, a second-generation breeder of fighting bulls and head of advocacy group Fundación del Toro de Lidia, said that coronavirus came ‘at the worst possible moment’.

He estimates the loss of income to be at least €700m.

“Even more concerning is that we don’t know when we’ll be able to restart our activities,” he told the Guardian. “Meanwhile, the animals continue to eat. You have to take care of them and the employees.”

He said the industry is in discussions with television networks about broadcasting bullfights behind closed doors, but still fears the worst.

“What industry could survive a year and a half without any income and still cover its costs?” he asked.

He said he knew of breeders slaughtering all of their animals – “I know there was a week where more than 400 were killed.”

The industry has turned to the Spanish government for help, outlining a list of requests that include a rollback of the sales tax on fighting bulls and grants to help breeders.

Martin said he wanted the industry to be treated as any other cultural industry, with benefits for tourism, hospitality and other sectors.

History also has a lesson for the industry: in 2007, one year before the financial crash, Spain held 3,651 events featuring bulls.

Just over a decade later, this number had more than halved, with 1,521 such events held in 2018.

Aida Gascon of AnimaNaturalis, behind the petition, said: “What we’re looking for is the total abolition of this practice of torturing animals as a form of spectacle.”

“One way to do that is to choke off their subsidies … it wouldn’t get rid of the industry completely but it would reduce it to 5% or 10% of what we have today.”

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