You will recall that the Catalan regional government voted to ban bullfighting in the northeastern region last July, by 68 votes to 55, with nine abstentions, on the grounds it is cruel and outdated. The vote was held after campaign group Prou! (Enough! in Catalan) collected 180,000 signatures in favour of a ban. Anti-bullfighting organisations hoped that the Catalan example would be be copied in some of Spain's 16 other autonomous communities.
However, critics of the ban said it was motivated more by Catalan nationalism and a desire to assure political independence from Madrid than by a genuine desire to outlaw the tradition.
The debate over bullfighting has now been reignited following the government’s decision to recognise the spectacle as "an artistic discipline and cultural product", a move which has delighted enthusiasts but caused outrage amongst animal rights campaigners.
Prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's socialist government announced that the ministry of culture will from now on be responsible for the "development and protection" of bullfighting, which previously fell within the remit of the interior ministry.
Whatever the government does to change the status of bullfighting will not affect what is actually happening to the sport in the country. In a recent poll, 60 per cent of Spaniards said they did not like bullfighting; attendances at corridas are falling, its appeal has faded among younger Spaniards and the industry has been hit by the economic crisis. The number of bullfights taking place at local fiestas has diminished as spending cuts have been enforced.
In other words, the need for a ban either nationally or regionally becomes less important as people continue to vote with their feet.