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?