Spain’s bullfighting industry faces a crunch point in 2022

SPAIN’S BULLFIGHTING INDUSTRY FACES A CRUNCH POINT IN 2022Bullfighting still has political support in Portugal, as in France, along with a strong hunting lobby, but can it thrive in its current guise for much longer?

Spain’s bullfighting season traditionally kicks off in February in Valdemorillo, a small town located approximately 40km outside of Madrid. It wouldn’t usually attract big names, but in 2022, star matador Morante de la Puebla has confirmed his appearance. In a profession characterised by internal divisions, there is a growing sense that the coming season needs to be a success if bullfighting is not to disappear altogether.

Bullfighting has been banned in Catalonia since 2011, but in the rest of the country, the conversation has switched since the onset of the pandemic. Where once the debate focused on prohibition, the question now is whether a lifeline ought to be granted to this ailing cultural industry. The current left-wing coalition government appears not to have the political will to explicitly prohibit what was once known as the “national fiesta”, or, conversely, to provide support to keep it running. Hence, for example, tickets for corridas were pointedly excluded from a scheme announced by prime minister Pedro Sánchez in October last year, whereby young people would be given 400-euro cultural passes to prop up various sectors.

Bullfights are reviewed in the arts rather than the sports sections of Spanish newspapers and fall under the purview of the Ministry of Culture. Declared illegal by the Spanish constitutional court in 2016, the Catalan ban was as much about political grandstanding as protecting animal rights. In the wake of the 2017 illegal independence referendum, the xenophobic and anti-immigration Vox party exploited anti-Catalan and pro-bullfighting sentiment in its campaigning and has become the third-biggest force in Spanish politics. Morante de la Puebla often joins party leader Santiago Abascal on the campaign trail.

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