Spanish islands approve booze-free, bloodless bullfights

A woman holds up a picture of a bull during a protest June 21 against bullfighting in Madrid.
Francisco Seco ~ Associated Press

MADRID -- Bullfights in Spain's Balearic Islands will be shorter, bloodless and only for adults under new regulations passed Monday that also ban alcoholic beverages in the bullring.

A majority of left-wing lawmakers in the islands' regional parliament approved the so-called "Balearic-style bullfighting" bill, which also requires anti- doping tests for matadors and bulls.

The time each bull spends in the ring should be limited to 10 minutes, and each bullfight may last for 30 minutes maximum, the new law states, effectively reducing from six to three the number of bulls that traditionally are pitted against matadors at each event.

Conservative deputies who opposed the law said bullfight promoters would find it impossible to hold any under the new rules.

Even if promoters draw bullfighting fans to blood-free "corridas," critics said making the events profitable will be a challenge because the law also carries insurance requirements and fines up to 100,000 euros ($116,000 dollars) if animals get hurt or spectators younger than 18 are found in the venue.

"It's a law made treacherously to ban our culture," Popular Party deputy Miquel Jerez said.

Opponents said the bill is at odds with the protection the Spanish Constitution grants to bullfighting as part of the national cultural heritage.

Jerez said the central government would seek to overturn the regional legislation. Spain's Constitutional Court ruled last year against a 2010 ban on bullfighting in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

Laura Camargo, a lawmaker with the Podemos party that proposed the bill, said the new "corridas" still could be appealing the way they are in Portugal and parts of Southern France, where animals are not killed or subject to physical injuries.

Humane Society International, an animal rights organization, hailed Monday's move by the islands' parliament as "a very satisfying victory for compassionate policymaking."

"Taunting and killing bulls for entertainment is a brutal anachronism," said Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International's public affairs director for Europe. "This vote shows that a full ban is not strictly necessary to end the practice of bullfighting."