Critics Slam Spain’s Move to Expose Young Children to Bullfighting Violence

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In a bold and controversial move, the firm managing Seville’s famous Maestranza bullring has decided to offer free tickets to children under eight. This decision has reignited a fierce national debate about the ethics and future of bullfighting in Spain.

The company’s intention is to introduce the youngest generation to what many consider a deep-rooted cultural tradition, while critics argue it exposes children to unnecessary violence and cruelty.

Spain is offering free bullfight tickets to children under eight.
Photo: Pexels
Spain is offering free bullfight tickets to children under eight.

Historical Tradition Meets Modern Criticism

Bullfighting has long been a contentious issue in Spain. The tradition, where a matador kills a bull with a sword thrust, is seen by supporters as an integral part of Spanish culture and history. Critics, however, view it as a barbaric practice with no place in modern society.

The announcement by Pages, the company managing Seville’s bullring, that children under eight can attend novilladas (practice bullfights with younger bulls) for free, has added fuel to this fiery debate, Reuters reports.

José Enrique Zaldivar, head of the Spanish Association of Veterinarians for the Abolition of Bullfighting, is a vocal critic. He believes that allowing young children to witness such events can cause psychological harm, reports The Guardian.

Animal rights groups are calling for an end to public subsidies for bullfighting.
Photo: Pexels
Animal rights groups are calling for an end to public subsidies for bullfighting.

Zaldivar’s concerns are shared by many, including animal rights groups like PACMA, which also campaign against public subsidies for bullfighting foundations, reports Reuters.

Despite a general decline in popularity over the years, bullfighting is experiencing a resurgence among younger audiences. Statistics from Spain’s Culture Ministry show that teenagers, particularly those aged 15-19, are the most consistent attendees at bullfights, reports the Daily Sabah.

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The Culture Ministry recently abolished its national bullfighting award.
Photo: Pexels
The Culture Ministry recently abolished its national bullfighting award.

Government and Public Response

The Spanish government has taken steps that reflect the divided opinion on bullfighting. Recently, the Culture Ministry abolished its national bullfighting award due to animal welfare concerns, which was met with backlash from fans and conservative politicians who see bullfighting as an art form, The Guardian reports. Despite these actions, bullfighting remains legally protected as part of Spain’s cultural patrimony.

In 2018, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Spain to ban children from bullfights to prevent exposure to violence, reports the Associated Press. This recommendation has yet to result in any legislative change.

Young audiences are increasingly attending bullfights.
Photo: Pexels
Young audiences are increasingly attending bullfights.

The Economics of Bullfighting

Bullfighting is not just a cultural practice but also a significant economic activity. It supports thousands of jobs, from ranchers to event organizers. Even the seamstresses who craft the elaborate “traje de luces” (suit of lights) worn by matadors are part of this economic ecosystem, the Daily Sabah reports.
For many, the economic benefits are a crucial argument in favor of continuing bullfighting. However, opponents argue that these jobs could exist within other, more humane industries.

Future of Bullfighting

The future of bullfighting in Spain is uncertain. On one hand, there is a strong push from animal rights activists and some parts of the government to reduce its prevalence. On the other hand, there is a committed base of young fans and professionals who see it as an essential part of their identity and cultural heritage.

The recent move to allow children free entry to bullfights is a troubling step backward. As Spain grapples with its identity and values in the 21st century, the debate over bullfighting will undoubtedly continue.

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