Bursting the Bubble

Zoosadism We All Pay For: How The EU Keeps Bullfighting Alive

22 May 2013 | by

With his thought-provoking article on the EU approach to animals, published last Monday, my fellow blogger Emanuele seems to have magically brought about an event, that ultimately proved his point. Two days later, a group of European Parliament members asked the Commissioner of agriculture if it’s true that the EU Common Agricultural Policy funds are used to finance bullfighting in Spain.

On Wednesday 15 May, green MEP Raül Romeva presented a letter signed by 17 members of the Green, Socialist and Liberal political groups to the EU agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos. They urge him to respond to a report by Alfred Bosch, a Spanish and Catalan parliamentarian, who proves that without the funding from the EU and the state, bullfighting would naturally cease to exist.

Bulls for corrida are reared on pastures that are fully eligible for funding from the direct payments of the CAPs first pillar. They obtain just as much support as other farms, which in 2008 reached €240 per hectare. Given the 540 000 ha used for breeding fighting bulls in Spain, no less than €129.6 million from EU aid is spent on bullfighting annually. This amount does not involve other sources of funding, such as the Rural Development Program, that, among others, provided €300 000 for renovation of the bullring in Bélmez, Andalusia.

The corridas are also heavily financed by the Spanish authorities. In spite of the rather insecure financial situation (to put it mildly), Spanish central and regional public institutions continue to spend almost €600 million each year on subsidies for the brutal entertainment. In 2011, the 13 329 organised corrida-related events (costing €1 730 million) on average received at least one third of the cost covered by public funding. Smaller towns often have to contribute more because local events don’t bring so much revenue as the grandiose, publicised fiestas in the big cities.

All of this is puzzling if we bear in mind, that in fact, Corrida is an ailing spectacle. According to a survey commissioned by Humane Society International, only 29 percent of Spaniards support bullfighting whilst 76 percent do not approve subsidizing it with public funds. 3 650 fights were organized in Spain in 2007, but only 2 290 took place four years later. The fact that, without public funding, Corrida would go broke, is perhaps the only thing both sides of the fence agree on.

For some reason though, the popular opposition, which is overwhelming, to the savage hobby isn’t reflected in real life. Bans on bullfighting are rare, with the one in Catalonia from 2011 being an exception that proves the rule. Even there, the decision was rather motivated with local separatism than genuine care for animal welfare. What’s more, this February, the Spanish parliament approved in a 180 to 40 vote a petition to grant Corrida special status. Declaring it part of the nation’s cultural heritage could even help it become recognized as such by the UN and also overturn the existing bans on bullfighting.

At a first glance, I was amazed to see how much the Spanish parliament differs in its views from the rest of its society. Then, I realised the analogy to other eccentric pastimes of dubious reputations which also bear disproportionate popularity among the upper-crust. In the Polish parliament, around 100 out of 560 parliamentarians are active hunters. Just as the calls to put an end to Corrida in Spain, all bottom-up initiatives in Poland to stop the widespread abuse committed by hunters, are thwarted by a powerful and influential lobby.

To me and to many other people, the fact that bullfighting still takes place in Europe, not only in Spain, but also in France and Portugal, is utterly appalling. I wish that the Spanish people, who are predominantly against it, took the initiative and finally put an end to this barbaric practice. But even if we agree, that the decision is up to them and we should respect it, there is something we can’t agree on. What we have to protest against, is that the bloodthirsty fun is co-financed from the pockets of all the EU members, many of whom are way ahead of Spain in promoting animal welfare. If we can’t prohibit this sadistic practice, could we at least stop sponsoring it and let it naturally go extinct?


Read the report on subsidies for bullfighting in Spain by Alfred Bosch and learn the opinions of the Spanish society on Corrida as surveyed by Humane Society International 



  1. Great article, Patrick. Let me add that Canarias also banned Corridas, in this case at the beginning of the 90s 🙂 Actually, the fact that the Spanish government is investing in a ‘sport’ which only a minority of Spaniards support is very symbolic of the current political and economic situation.

  2. Congratulations for your deep knowledge on the issue being a Polish Citizen. I fully agree with your view. This is only part of the biased and franquist heritaged model of Spanish politics and administration.

    I think it is an overdimensioned issue, which has been used in order to turn it into a political tool for independentist movements to artificially diferenciate them from the Spanish mainstream image. Nevertheless what you have mentioned here represents only the top of the iceberg. Its implications go deeper on the fundations in Spain and in the EU.

    In Spain, and more concrete in Andalucia, the Cap implications are the following. Bull breeding lands are being used by huge landlords to maintain their subsidies with a low intensive work force _therefore a low redistributive capacity-, without necessity to produce any natural good, for increase their already abundant fortunes (E.g. Notably see Duquesa de Alba) This connotations inevitable prevent land to be productive and therefore job creation.

    For the EU, it is the proof that the current CAP model does is not sustainable. Bullfightings although a cultural symbol and image to export to invite tourist to come a visit the warm and charming Andalucia, are at the cradle of Capitalist latifundism, the current CAP subsidies system, Unsustainable low added value growth models -tourist and therefore housing based- which had led to the current and unaceptable high unemployemt rates. Which is also at the core values of the current economic model fostered by the EU the previous years.

    Let me conclude that, until all this deeper issues would be adequately tackled, there is no relevance of talking about bullfighting as such. My apologies if I become a bit redundant but there are 1.108.028 reasons to think on other approaches to the Andalucian problems than this one.

    If you have reached this point of the comment, thank you so much for your attention from a proud Andalusian.

  3. Dear Spanish Friends Silvia and Juan,

    Many thanks for your comments, Silvia and Juan! Especially to you, dear Proud Andalusian, though I’m sorry to say, that to me your logic seems completely flawed. You combine bullfighting with the larger problem of massive unemployment in your region. Based on that, you portray bulfighting as an issue of less importance, as opposed to the hordes of unemployed people that need to be helped in the first instance. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these two things don’t have much in common and in no way contradict each other. Will it have any effect on the unemployment, if we let corrida go where it came from – vanity? As Silvia already said – it was banned in the Canary Islands, and somehow they managed to make ends meet.

    Secondly, you say that combating unemployment is the most important to solve problems of Andalusia. I appreciate your local patriotism, but let me explain, that I don’t call for quitting bullfighting to help any region or province. I’m rather concerned about the animals slaughtered to death in vain, and something is telling me that they couldn’t care less if they’re meeting their end in Andalusia or any other geographical area.

    Truly yours,
    Friendly Rebel

    • By no means i aim to contradict you but deepen in the analysis! And if u menrion a region please respect the inhabitants if it. At least if you want them to read your articles respectfuly. Next time read carefully t he answer to ur own articles!

  4. Good and hangovered mornings,

    Well, reached this point I think that you have not paid attention reading, because i prefer not to think it was a deliberated lack of respect.

    Firstly, I would think of telling you for future articles, if you use a region in following articles the less you can do is hear the locals and care about what they say. Otherwise, as you dont care less about their interests they wont give a shit about yours, how it is going to be the case and they would not care less about your opinion either.

    Secondly I would think about several questions like: Which what legitimation do you speak about such an issue? How many bullfightings have you witnessed, even by youtube? Do you pay taxes to demand where the revenue goes? Have you intense links with horned creatures? Do I talk about what Lech Walesa said? Shall I say what i think of that rancid neo-liberal/conservative mainstream smell of Poland? or attack sterotypes of moustacheful bike robbers? Should I?
    I would even recall some past experiences. Due to work reasons I have been in the situation of attending to a few, and believe I have seen bulls spitting blood before dying while crying, and with the only intention of give a “cornada” to the bullfighter before dying. Believe me when I say that youre not even slightly close to my empathy towards animals, at least to the 4 legged ones. However, I have seen people jumping out from balconies due to not being able to feed their families due to lack of employment. Even in the case of equalization of rights between bulls and humans. In Andalucia a simple quantitative approach would give weight to my statement.

    Finally, I would tell you that, in the end, i was agreeing with you and the only thing I did was deepening in your analysis and support your position. And i dont see the point of not caring less about a supporting opinion.

    However, and luckily of course, I understand that you were busy with other stuff and did not read what I wrote carefully. I am sure for next time you will use Andalucia as an example, you will be as careful and polite and is used from you, my beloved Patryk, and will avoid such statements.

  5. I see analogy to the Hunting Act, which was supposed to rule fox hunting unlawful in Britain. For a long time it circulated back and forth between House of Commons, which was in favour of it, and House of Lords, which repeatedly rejected it (guess which House comprises of more aristocrats who hunt for leisure).


  6. Canary Isands banned bullfights…yes and it is good…but they have cock fights….and horses runs in roads with traffic…

    • The cock fights in the Canaries are practiced but, maybe, 0,05% of the population and it very remoted areas. Most of Canarians (like me) don’t agree with them, they are not promoted and even less financed with public funds. We all are pressing our regional government to ban them but, as I told you, they are something basically dead. Regarding horses running on the roads… can you tell me where that happens… I tell you because I am from the Canaries, I am in my fourties and I have never seen done in my entire life. So, please, tell me just to go and check it!

  7. Luckily cock fights are not popular any more, and they do not appear in the public TV. It is would depend on me, I would abolish them. Horses running in roads? I do not know what you mean, I have never seen that in all my life living there. In any case, this is not about the Canary Islands, but a critic to the allocation of public subsidies to recreation based on animal torture.

What do you think?