Bullfighting returns to Spanish public TV during children’s prime time

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Six years ago Spain’s socialist government banned broadcasting bullfights on state television saying it was unsuitable for children.

Thanks to a switch to a conservative government and a certain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy who is a notorious fan of the controversial practice, the decision has been reversed and state-funded Televisión Española is set to air the torture and ultimate death of bulls in the Valladolid bullring Sept. 5 across the country at prime children’s viewing hours.

Conservative Rajoy’s People’s Party took control of the broadcasting board and changed its senior management, ousting liberal-leaning members.

Citizens who view the bloody spectacle as a defining part of Spanish tradition are hailing the measure, and others who see bullfighting as something that stains an otherwise rich cultural heritage are critical of Rayoy’s tactics.

While the bullfighters and arena have agreed to allow filming for the public channel royalty free, taxpayers will still foot the bill for the multi-camera broadcast.

Bullfighters and the companies which own the arenas throughout Spain are happy to offer what is now officially classified as “art” free to public viewers as they have seen a steady decline in bullfighting attendance, as well as outright bans in two regions.

The Canary Islands banned bullfighting in 1991, joined by the autonomous north eastern region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, in 2010.

Fiercely independent and intent on standing apart from the rest of Spain, Catalonians complain that the Spanish government has defied their desire to stay bullfight-free by bringing it back to the region through state television.

The Catalan Audiovisual Council is planning to submit a report to the Ministry of Industry analyzing whether child protection laws will be breached by the government screening bullfights at times when children are likely to be watching.

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But it seems the decision to re-allow live bullfighting broadcasts for children’s viewing may be an attempt to indoctrinate the younger generations into acceptance of the practice as much of the young adult population is straying from the blood sport.

child bullfighting

Rayoy’s controversial reform of state broadcasting included removing the section of its code of conduct preventing children from watching live bullfights.

Of course, parents who see the value of raising children who oppose violence can simply turn the channel. But anyone who has known or been a kid at some point understands that anything forbidden appears that much cooler.

Logically it seems that airing the kind of cruel behavior inherent in bullfighting would serve to educate people and create a strong resistance, but unfortunately being exposed to something again and again only creates a kind of immunity and apathy.

Spain, in the midst of its second recession in three years, may need a full state rescue after accepting a $125 billion bailout for its ailing banking sector. With unemployment at close to 25 percent, saving the bulls is not a priority for most Spaniards.

A tradition of blood

Spain is not well known in the first place for being a humane leader in Europe. Blood fiestas are a huge part of Spanish tradition, which often go unnoticed because they are performed for communities rather than tourists.

A 2010 Daily Mail reporter attended a the annual Toro de la Vega blood fiesta in Tordesillas and called it “as sickening as they were brutal.”

The article reports that the European Union spent close to $55 million in 2010 subsidizing events like the fiestas, where a bull is chased with sticks and rocks into an open area, speared again and again by the townspeople, only to meet his end often by having his ears, tail and testicles cut off while he is still breathing.

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This same event will occur again this coming Sept. 11 in Tordesillas, as it does all over Spain. Although animal abuse is illegal, exemptions exist if the torture of an animal is necessary to a good fiesta.

According to the Daily Mail:

“up to 15,000 towns and villages sacrifice animals as centerpieces of their fiestas – often out of the gaze of tourists and the media. Some involve hanging chickens upside down by their feet on washing lines while townfolk ride underneath and pull their heads off to win prizes.

Another involves placing chickens in boxes with their heads poking out of the top. Local men and boys then chop off as many heads as possible while blindfolded. In yet another fiesta, birds are sealed inside clay pots and stoned to death.”

The Spanish should question the implications of calling these practices part of their culture. They are such that the Romans who once set up their western capital in Merida, Spain, would be quite impressed. We recognize brutality in the modern world, and most of us reject it.

In the words of a forward-thinking Muslim feminist when asked what the greatest challenges are facing Muslim women, “We return to customs and traditions – they’re like a cage. A cage that imprisons us all.”

This applies to all forms of injustice that are perpetrated behind the thin veil of protection called traditions and customs.

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