The government is set to raise tax on tickets for bullfighting events after a contentious vote in parliament that pitted animal rights activists against supporters of the traditional sport.
The hike will see VAT on tickets increase from six per cent to the maximum 23 per cent after months of cutthroat debate. MPs from Costa’s ruling Socialist Party were eventually instructed to vote in favour of the increase, despite some arguing that bullfighting should be treated as “an integral part of Portuguese heritage and important to the local economy.”
Bullfighting in Portugal slightly differs from the Spanish tradition. It consists of grabbing the bull by the horns and wrestling it into submission. Small spears, known as banderilhas, are plunged into the bull’s back, but unlike in Spain, the animal is not killed with a sword at the end of the fight - although they often are slaughtered out of sight of the audience afterwards.
However, for the animal rights activists this victory is merely for a battle, not the war. Back in 2018, parliament voted against an outright ban on bullfighting to their contestation, however Culture Minister Graca Fonseca has previously defended having higher VAT on bullfights than other cultural events, stating that “it is a matter of civilisation.” Politician André Silva, leader of the PAN party (People-Animals-Nature) described bullfighting as “showing the most abject cowardice that the human species is capable of: disgusting amusement at the vulnerability of others.”
Despite Wednesday’s vote, supporters of the contested spectacle said they will not give up the struggle against the tax hike. ProToiro, Portugal’s national bullfighting federation, announced on Thursday that they will ask President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to veto a change in the law, which in their view would be “discriminatory and unconstitutional” as it treated bullfighting differently to other cultural activities.
“It is in his hands as the guarantor of the Constitution to rule out this manifest and blatant illegality that wounds and offends the rights and freedoms of the Portuguese,” said Hélder Milheiro, ProToiro’s secretary-general.