Will the bulls be back?

Catalonia banned bullfighting a few years ago the ban is reversed by the Spanish Supreme court.

By Jing de Visser and Elif Doganyigit January 11, 2018

BARCELONA-Bullfighting is one of Spain’s most well-known traditions. In 2010 bullfighting was banned by the Catalonian government and was reversed in 2016, because the Supreme Court of Spain in Madrid ruled that any territories of Spain cannot ban a tradition. Catalan people still have no clue that the cruelty is legal in their territory. Is it possible the tradition will return?


The first bullfight held in Barcelona was in 1387. Since then, Barcelona has become the most popular city to have the fights together with Madrid. Having its glorious days for many years La Monumental, the oldest bullring in Barcelona, hosted its last event on 25th of September, 2011. Even though, most locals of Catalonia were in favor of the ban, the 18.000 people stadium sold out quickly and tickets sold for eight times the cover price on the black market.

Since the Catalan parliament made a decision to ban bullfighting, a debate was sparked regarding the motives of the government in implementing this ban. Critics believe that it was mainly nationalism that led to the ban, to show that Catalonia is in fact different from Spain, instead of animal welfare.

Sentient beings

Marita Giménez-Candela (50) is the director of the Master in Animal law and policy at the International Center for Animal Law and Policy. Bullfighting is one of the issues they have been involved with heavily, and the ban was an important case for the centre.The bullfighting ban was also one of the projects they worked on.

Giménez-Candela tells that article 13 in the Lisbon treaty states that since animals are sentient* beings, [countries must] pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals but, there is a catch, national tradition can, at times, outweigh article 13.  “An argument to a tradition like this is definitely that the animals are suffering from this tradition. It is not humane to continue this.” she says.

Giménez-Candela explains that Catalonia is really progressive when it comes to animal welfare and that the Catalan people to recognize animals as sentient beings over the years and activism is very remarkable here. “Animal shelters are very well organised, it’s part of a certain atmosphere that is around in Catalonia.” she says. Giménez-Candela adds, “For example, dogs were not allowed in public transport in Spain. In Catalonia they were, and in 2017 Madrid changed this rule as well.” Catalonia is the only Spanish region which has a specific department for the protection of animals, the Association for the defense of animal rights.

According to Giménez-Candela, Catalonia is a step ahead of Spain in terms of animal welfare, although there is a lot more work to be done. There are still festivities that involve bulls, for example the famous Bous al carrer. This happens mostly in Terres de L’ebre, the Valencian region.  Giménez-Candela says “Bous al carrer is Catalan for ‘bulls in the street’.” The bulls are not directed to a bullring, which happened in the past, but Giménez-Candela adds that “It is mistreating of animals, because it is very stressful with the running and all the people.”

As critics claim the bullfighting ban was at first, a reaction to Madrid. However, Giménez-Candela does not think it is. “The political aspect has been used, but I do not think it is the main reason. It is a changing atmosphere.” she says: “In fact, it would be possible to have a bullfight again in Catalonia and it has not happened. Catalonia has no interest and last year it was possible to organize a bullfight, but there is no public interest anymore.”

La Monumental

If the Catalans would decide to organize a bullfight again, it would only be possible in one arena in Barcelona now. ‘La monumental’, the most famous bullring in Barcelona, has opened up to the public and is currently a museum. However it is still in its original state and could be used any moment. You also have  ‘Las Arenas’ bullfighting ring has been transformed into a commercial shopping area.

At least that is what Marissa (47) in the ring says, one of the souvenir shop owners in the ring. Her family has owned the shop for 70 years. She explains that the ring is currently in use as a museum and that it is private property now of a famous family named Balaná, who apart from La Monumental own theaters and cinemas around the city.” she adds. Because her and her family are in favor of the bullfighting business, she hopes that next summer there could be a bullfight again. She does not believe bullfighting is animal unfriendly “I am not a vegetarian, I eat meat. I think that if you love meat you are okay with the bullfighting.” She adds, that bullfighting was and is a business that is very important for her family, because they can live because of this long-lasting tradition.

Not there yet

Catalonia is not the only region that is involved with bull festivities. The International center for Animal Law and policy is an international organization and they are trying to fight activities like this all over the country. “It is part of social commitment, society should be involved to refuse every manifestation of cruelty.” is what Giménez-Candela stated. There is a only a small chance that bullfighting will return to Catalonia, people are transforming and having more compassion for animals than before.