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Colombia Mulls Bullfighting Ban


Colombia bullfighting ban
In the historic debate on bullfighting, the Colombian Congress is advancing a bill to ban bullfighting definitively – Credit: Rufino Lasaosa / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Deed

Colombia is discussing a law to definitively prohibit bullfighting in the country. So far, the parliamentary debate is progressing favorably and last March the third debate was approved in Congress and only a new vote is needed to turn into law the project presented by Historical Pact, a party that supports President Gustavo Petro, and supported by Green Alliance.

This bill seeks to comply with a 2010 ruling of the Constitutional Court, a ruling that focuses on the moderation of bullfights, but not on their prohibition. In fact, several court rulings have endorsed the existence of these bullfighting spectacles, as did that of 2023, which annulled the prohibition promoted in Bogota during the mayoralty of the current president, Gustavo Petro.

Congressman Alejandro Garcia, who defends the current bill on behalf of the Green Alliance, stressed that this project recognizes the need to bet on the economic and labor reconversion of people engaged in bullfighting activities, so guarantees will be provided to those who prove that their income is derived from these activities.

Three-year reconversion of the sector of bullfighting in Colombia

Some critics of the initiative are concerned about the jobs generated by bullfighting, to which the representative responded that the bill recognizes the need to provide alternatives to this population. “We will be providing guarantees to those who can prove that their income is derived from these activities. Colombia is one of only eight countries where bullfighting is practiced and it is time to change that”, said Garcia, from Green Alliance.

Representative Juan Carlos Losada, of the Liberal Party, described the day as a historic day. “It is time to call for unity between all animal defenders in the country…..and those who have been in the constant struggle in one corner or another. It is time to unite without pettiness, without egos and it is time to put an end to bullfighting”, she highlighted.

Meanwhile, the author of the project assured that she trusts in the positive vote of the plenary of the Chamber, a scenario in which the fourth and last debate will take place in order for the ban to become law. “I believe that we are going to achieve it. This is an achievement of the people who have made their way and who have given themselves to this fight in Congress and in the streets so that today this is a reality”, said Senator Esmeralda Hernandez, of the governmental Historical Pact.

Colombia bullfighting ban
The political and social debate on bullfighting has been going on for years in Colombia – Credit: Colombian Congress

Defenders and detractors of bullfighting

In spite of the majorities in the last debate, an intense discussion of the initiative is expected in the plenary, a debate to which the public opinion has joined with some voices defending the rights of animals, others free artistic and cultural expression.

In Bogota, bullfighting was explicitly prohibited during the mayoralty of Gustavo Petro. Thus, between 2012 and 2017 the Santamaria square in the capital stopped holding bullfights, but a court ruling in 2023 forced the return of these bullfighting spectacles.

In the city there is a political majority against bullfights. In this regard, in 2020 the local government council passed a law to prohibit the killing of bulls in the bullring, and eliminated the use of elements such as the sword, the puya and banderillas, thus complying with the ruling that advocated “moderation” in bullfights. Since then, the Santamaria bullring has not held any bullfights.

However, in Colombia there are also many people who defend bullfighting as “a tradition” of the country. One of the leading exponents of this view is the Colombian matador Cesar Ricon, who made a defense of bullfighting in Congress at the end of 2022. “The public bullrings were my school, my university. Now, many of them are closed. The reason is intolerance. We are victims,” he affirmed in his speech at the seat of the legislative branch.

Known not only as a bullfighter, but also as an important cattle rancher both in Colombia and Spain, Rincon ended his speech by stating that “in democracy we all have a place, we do not want to be victims. I ask you not to ban bullfighting”.

Colombia bullfighting ban
The ‘plaza de todos’ Santamaria, in Bogota, has not held bullfights since 2020 – Credit: Vtooto / CC BY-SA 3.0

Global debate on tradition and ethics

For centuries, bullfighting has been a symbol of culture and tradition in many regions of the world, but it has also been the subject of intense ethical and moral debate. In recent decades, the prohibition of these practices has been spreading worldwide, with activist movements seeking to put an end to what they consider an act of cruelty to animals.

In Spain, the birthplace of bullfighting, the ban has been a hot topic, especially at the regional level. The Canary Islands, in 1991, were the first Spanish region to ban bullfighting by law. It was followed by Catalonia, which in 2010 did the same; today these are the only two Spanish regions where bullfighting shows are not held. However, in other regions such as Andalusia or Madrid, bullfighting remains an ingrained part of the local culture, although they also face criticism and pressure to ban it.

While bullfighting has long been an integral part of the culture in many regions, the debate over its ethics and its impact on animal welfare has led to bans and restrictions around the world. In Colombia, as in other regions, the debate over the continuation of this practice is ongoing.

Outside Spain, countries such as Mexico, France and Portugal also have a long bullfighting tradition. However, movements have arisen that seek to put an end to these practices. In Mexico, for example, the state of Sonora banned bullfighting in 2013, followed by Mexico City in 2015. However, a court ruling in December 2023 overturned this decision and the bulls returned to the Mexican capital.

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