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Opinion: You are paying for a circus of cruelty whether you like it or not


The holiday season is upon us writes Pedro Cristobel. Thousands of Brits will be in Spain to relax in the sun. Many will venture into the towns and the cities to experience some local culture. In Spain, there is a wealth of culture and tourists are invited to enjoy the spectacle of bullfighting, a long tradition as Spanish as paella and flamenco dancing. However, what many British spectators don’t realise when they buy their tickets to see these events, is that they’ve already paid for it. Generous Brits subsidised Spanish bullfighting to the tune of £13.5million last year. In 2013 several newspapers explained how British taxpayers pay £13.5million EU bill to ­subsidise ­bullfighting in Spain. Several years later, the situation hasn’t changed.

The UK is a nation of animal-lovers yet it pays millions of pounds every year towards the brutal killing of bulls to keep the tourists entertained. Our financial contribution is part of an astonishing £110 million that is spent by the Common Agricultural Policy allocated to Spanish farmers just to rear fighting bulls for our amusement. It’s a lucrative business. The industry also receives a further €600 million from Spanish taxpayers – enough to pay for six hospitals. Without these huge subsidies the practice will wither and die.

I doubt very much that British spectators at bullfights and runnings of the bulls will be aware that they’ve paid for the pleasure already. In any case, most do not return once they have seen the sickening reality of a bull-fight. They leave shocked and disgusted at the cruelty inflicted on a  tormented beast.

During the last CAP negotiations, Labour’s Sir Alan Meale said “bullfighting is the last thing in the world we should be ­subsidising.” And yet we continue to do so. Alyn Smith, an MEP from the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has campaigned against EU  funding for bull-fighting. He says, “The EU is committed to animal welfare. Agricultural subsidies should be used to help farmers produce food, not to satisfy an outdated and abhorrent animal sacrifice.”

There is significant opposition to bullfighting within Spain too. Several Spanish MEPs compiled a report – Toros and Taxes – in 2013 which revealed that “economic returns for fighting-bulls are negative”. In other words, local economies don’t benefit from the EU’s largesse. Only bull farmers would notice if the subsidies dry up. Raul Romeva, a Spanish MEP, says “It is unacceptable that EU funds continue to be used to prop up this brutal practice, which flies in the face of EU commitments on animal welfare,”.

Some regions in Spain have banished bull-fighting and across the country and more and more Spaniards are turned off by its barbarity. As such, promoters are increasingly targeting tourists. It is incumbent on the tourists to boycott the events. Tourists are often reassured that it will just be a training match and that the bull will  not be killed. However, they are almost always killed in the ring.

Spain has an amazing wealth of culture. Bull-fighting, however, is not a proud Spanish tradition. It is a national embarrassment. Please don’t think you  are doing the local any favours by buying souvenirs. It just perpetuates a stereotype of Spain. Don’t think for a minute that you are experiencing Spanish culture if you decide to watch a bullfight. You are not. You are experiencing only a distorted perception of our culture – and one that belongs in the past. You can instead put some pressure on the tourism industry not promote bullfighting. CAS International, a Dutch association fighting bullfighting created examples of letters that you can print and send (SpanishFrenchPortuguese).

However, even if you decide to boycott the events, you are still supporting the industry –  whether you like it or not. Your taxes are being spent on bull-rearing subsidies in Spain. Fortunately, you can do something about that too. You can put pressure on your Government to end the subsidies. Write to the Department for Agriculture or your local MEP to commit to an end to CAP money being spent on rearing bulls for bullfighting.

Pedro Cristobel is a researcher at Peer-Partners.

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