Af­ter im­pas­sioned de­bate, Cat­alo­nia bans bull­fight­ing

Vote’s crit­ics say move has na­tion­al­ist mo­tives

Austin American-Statesman - - THURSDAYBRIEFING - By Henry Chu

BARCELONA, Spain — The in­de­pen­dence-minded re­gion of Cat­alo­nia be­came the first on the Span­ish main­land to out­law bull­fight­ing Wed­nes­day af­ter im­pas­sioned de­bate.

Law­mak­ers in Cat­alo­nia’s re­gional assem­bly ap­proved the ban af­ter emo­tional speeches that mixed ex­pres­sions of sup­port for main­tain­ing tra­di­tion with de­nun­ci­a­tions of bull­fight­ing as in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized cru­elty.

The vote cul­mi­nated a pub­lic ini­tia­tive to ditch bull­fight­ing that be­gan more than 1½ years ago and has drawn in­ter­na­tional me­dia cov­er­age. Back­ers of the ban erupted in cheers in the assem­bly cham­ber’s gallery.

But crit­ics have as­sailed the cam­paign for a ban as a pre­text for more nakedly po­lit­i­cal and na­tion­al­ist ends. They sus­pect the true mo­tive is a de­sire to poke a stick in the eye of the rest of Spain, an as­ser­tion of Cata­lan iden­tity as dif­fer­ent.

Ear­lier this month, Cata­lan na­tion­al­ists put on one of the biggest demon­stra­tions ever seen in this part of north­ern Spain. The protest was fu­eled by ou­trage over a rul­ing by Spain’s con­sti­tu­tional court that up­held most of Cat­alo­nia’s char­ter on greater self-rule but re­fused to rec­og­nize a le­gal ba­sis for call­ing the re­gion a “nation.”

Con­ser­va­tives say that get­ting rid of bull­fight­ing fur­ther un­der­mines Span­ish unity. Ad­vo­cates of the ban re­ject sug­ges­tions that their views or ac­tions are a byprod­uct of Cata­lan sep­a­ratism. They see bull­fight­ing not as a tra­di­tion steeped in ro­mance but a bar­baric prac­tice steeped in blood.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza

An­i­mal rights ac­tivists in Madrid cel­e­brate the de­ci­sion by Cat­alo­nia law­mak­ers Wed­nes­day to ban bull­fights in their north­ern re­gion of Spain.

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