So, it’s been a week since the controversial law was passed by the Catalunya autonomous government (generalitat), and the worst of the hysteria has died down. No, wait, it hasn’t. Still going strong. It’s even made Spain forget about the World Cup win.
I thought it best to have a look at the law myself. Of course, it’s in Catalan, which I don’t speak, but anyone fluent in speaking Castellano with a French accent, and with a couple of glasses of good wine inside him, can give Catalan a shot. (Just my little joke, no offense meant!).
Three main points jump to mind when looking at this populist driven piece of legislation.
First off, the way that Catalunya allowed the law to be seized upon by Spanish nationalists and presented as a revenge move for the troubles Catalunya is having in getting its Estatut (new national law governing Catalan autonomy and granting the region additional local powers) past the Constitutional Court in Madrid. Forget the bulls, scream the PP and the Spanish conservative heartland, this is Barcelona spitting in our eye for not being allowed to break up Spain.
Both ZP himself, and José Montilla (President of Catalunya) have tried to separate the legislation from the Nationalist movement, but have, it seems, failed in the popular mind. Montilla, incidentally, voted against the law (saying he respected individual freedoms) and helped force a free vote on the matter, in order to allow MP’s to vote “according to their conscience”. He has publicly admitted that he was always afraid that the law would turn into “a temperature test of the relationship between Catalunya and Spain” (Although comments like the relationship between Catalunya and Spain hardly help to promote integration).
So not a single newspaper or TV debate has, as far as I can see, to date discussed whether the law is a correct model for Spain to be following in modifying animal rights legislation. Instead, the discussion, both inside and outside the country, is on the Catalan Independence Movement. Animal rights don’t even get a look in to this debate.
Remember, in the Spanish popular mind, Catalunya is governed by clever politicians who are determined to break free of what they term the “Spanish oppressor” whilst enriching themselves in the process. A sort of Basque Country without the bombs, if you will. And it was just a few weeks ago that everybody was discussing how it is now technically impossible for public schools in Catalunya to have Castellano as their first language, and how films in the cinema have to be dubbed into Catalan before Castellano.
Secondly, this cockup of a law doesn’t do anything for animal rights, and probably harms them. It’s badly thought out, unenforceable and populist driven. I shall explain.
The law, quite blandly, prohibits bullfights in squares. So it outlaws the carefully controlled industry, but appears to permit the local fiestas based on animal torture and bull running, which is the one that everybody should be getting excited about and trying to ban.
Let’s bear in the mind the difference between the carefully controlled industry – employing thousands of farmers, workers, showpeople and the like- which carefully rears prize winning bulls in pampered surroundings for their later slaughter, versus a crowd of drunks being allowed to stuff fireworks up the bottom of an elderly cow purchased off a farmer for 20 euros, shall we?
This appears to be due to the rush to pass the law through. The draft law was given to the Generalitat together with 180,000 signatures, sufficient to be classified as a popular referendum, which causes the parliament to vote on the law. Anxious not to disappoint the 180,000 voters, the law was rushed through in record time without too much time being spent on it. An alternate view is that nobody gives a damn, and the whole intention was simply to damage the industry, thus doing as much harm to “Spanish” interests as possible, without causing too much of a stir in the Catalan homeland.
An intense legal debate has already erupted around the law in legal circles, and lawyers appear confident that due to the wording of the law, fiestas such as the barbaric Toro Embolado AKA the correbous will continue. The correbous is a fiesta popular in the south of Catalunya (and north of Valencia) which consists of tying burning branches and fireworks onto a bulls horns and then letting it run, aflame, through the streets of the town while people pull on its tail and generally kick it about. This year 240 of these barbarities will be carried out in local fiestas, and they are, and continue to be, 100% legal and 100% unregulated. Here’s a picture of the start of one:
Some analysts even say that bullfighting outside of a square will be legal – several major bullfighters have already promised to carry out bullfights in public (outside of squares) come 2012. Critics say that the Generalitat should have copied the Canary Island legislation – the islands outlawed bullfighting and bull torture in general, in 1991 in a progressive piece of animal rights legislation.
Thirdly, the whole law was completely unnecessary and has only caused to actually increase interest in bullfighting.
The whole of Catalunya has, it appears, only one active bullring still going, the famous bullring of Barcelona, one of the oldest in the world. Two others are licensed to carry out bullfights, but the one in Tarragona has been closed for years due to ongoing works (still no opening date) and the Olot one hasn’t seen action in years, as the townhall refuses to permit bullfights, and uses it as a museum and civic centre.
The Monumental, as the Barcelona bullring is known, is technically bankrupt. In 2009, it put on just 20 bullfights, down from 48 in 2006, and this year is expected to put on just a dozen fights. It only stays open due to public subsidiaries from the Ministry of the Interior. But, Telecinco was suggesting last night, due to the sudden interest in bullfighting aroused from the discussion, the Monumental is scrabbling around to put on more, as ticket sales have rocketed.
Leading industry figures have admitted that the debate has reopened interest in bullfighting, and are hoping that more young people will now be encouraged to come along and see for themselves what it’s all about. “Could be a shot in the arm for us” admitted one bullfighter last night on TV (I forget his name). “Bullfighting in Catalunya’s dead anyway”.
(It’s the same all over Spain – the younger generation just doesn’t care any more. See my 2008 post of “reflections of bullfighting“.)
It’s certainly not going to encourage other regions to outlaw bullfighting – anyone suggesting doing so will at once be branded a “separatist”, and hounded out as a traitor to the Crown.
So there we go. A piece of legislation that does nothing but inflames passion, and will probably be overturned by the Supreme Court before it comes into law. If I were a cynic, I’d suggest that the law was cunningly done to actually help bullfighting survive. Naw….. could it be?