Between tradition and animal welfare, is the ban on bullfighting inevitable?

“A despicable practice”, “a show that no longer has its place in our society”. When he speaks about bullfighting, Aymeric Caron, a fervent activist on the issue of animal welfare, does not mince his words. The deputy of La France insoumise announced on Saturday September 3 that he had tabled a bill aimed at making “Abolish bullfighting in France”. A text which, according to him, should obtain the support of the Renaissance and LR parliamentarians, in addition to the members of the coalition of left-wing parties grouped in the Nupes.

This summer, like every year, many bullfighting shows took place in the south of France, such as this weekend where bullfights will be held in Arles or Dax. However, the practice would be on the decline. “Twenty-seven municipalities in regions where bullfighting is authorized stopped organizing them since 2005″, assures Claire Starozinski, president of the Anti-corrida Alliance. “For Pentecost in Nîmes, the number of bullfights went from nine to six between 2013 and 2020”, does she advance.

In question, the dislike of the general public? According to an Ifop poll carried out in 2021 for the militant association, 81% of French people are opposed to shows with the killing of the bull, and 80% are in favor of a ban on children under 14..

“No anti-bullfighting law has ever been passed”

Despite the mounting threats, aficionados are calm. Bullfighting is going through a complicated period because a very media minority plays on the sensitive chord of the death of an animal, observes Corentin Carpentier, spokesperson for the Touche pas à mes traditions collective, but I do not think that the political power wants to set fire to these rural territories by prohibiting what makes their cultural identity. » The young Nîmes, founder of an association for the defense of bullfighting, launched an online kitty in mid-August to finance the production of a clip promoting the practice. She has already collected nearly €12,000.

“Anyway, since that of 1921, no anti-corrida law proposal has succeeded. So the next one doesn’t scare me.”, reassures Roger Margé, breeder of fighting bulls in Aude.

The right to entertainment versus animal rights

Whether this law is passed or not, Olivia Symniacos, a lawyer specializing in animal rights, is convinced that the fight against bullfighting will succeed in the coming years.. “Thanks to scientific studies, we understand that animals are conscious, sensitive beings who can suffer. Therefore, animal welfare has been gaining momentum for several years. »

An evolution that will eventually translate into legislation: “The law evolves according to society, which itself evolves according to consciences. Will merit continue to consider the right to entertainment superior to animal rights? Tradition above evolution? Logic dictates that evolution takes precedence. And it has already started. » On November 30, 2021, the penalties for acts of animal cruelty were increased: “We went from two years in prison and a €30,000 fine to three years and €45,000. It’s a sign. »

“Making the practice work”

In the event of a ban, pro-bullfights will not let it go “There are 10,000 things to do to improve animal welfare before tackling bullfighting. We will resist until the end, insists Roger Margé, who recalls that 78% of residents of bullfighting municipalities believe that bullfighting is an integral part of local culture, according to another Ifop poll carried out in 2022 for Sud Radio.

Rather than a brutal ban, Olivia Symniacos rather advocates a gradual evolution of the practice: “It is entirely possible to ban the killing of the bull to bring the practice into the clouds of a changing society. »

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Bullfighting, an exception to the penal code

Article 521-1 of the Penal Code states that“carrying out serious abuse or committing an act of cruelty towards a domestic animal, or tamed, or held in captivity, is punished by three years’ imprisonment and a fine of €45,000”.

However, a paragraph of the text indicates that these provisions “do not apply to bullfights where an uninterrupted local tradition can be reported”.

These areas are specified in a decision of April 3, 2000 from the Toulouse Court of Appeal, which explains “that it cannot be disputed that in the south of France between the country of Arles and the Basque Country, between scrubland and the Mediterranean, between the Pyrenees and the Garonne, in Provence, Languedoc, Catalonia, Gascony, Landes and the Basque Country exists a strong bullfighting tradition”.

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