The start of the bullfighting season in Lisbon has once again put animal rights organizations on the warpath . The Campo Pequeno bullring , in the Portuguese capital, has once again become a battlefield between fans of these shows and their detractors, who since the beginning of August have gathered outside the enclosure to protest against a practice they consider anachronistic .
Protests that have not made great progress towards its abolition so far , largely due to the lack of political will and the general disinterest of the population. The Portuguese Parliament rejected last year a citizen proposal, with more than 25,000 signatures, demanding an end to public financing of bullfights.
Two years earlier, the People, Animals, Nature (PAN) party proposed to ban these shows, but the votes against the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and a large part of the socialist caucus prevented the law from going forward.
PAN spokesperson, Inês de Sousa Real , assures that Parliament’s refusal to these initiatives is due to the power of the bullfighting lobby . “This activity absorbs a total of 16 million euros of public money, whether European or national funds.
The beneficiaries of these funds are a clear minority of Portuguese society, which has a great influence on Parliament,” says the deputy, who assures that these resources should be destined to other areas of culture that have been severely punished by the pandemic .
The representatives of the bullfighting sector assure that the prohibition of bullfighting is not a debate that may be on the table. “In the states of law, cultural freedom is a fundamental right, its prohibition would be unconstitutional.
Decisions cannot be made by minorities that are imposed on the majorities,” says Hélder Milheiro , secretary general of ProTóiro, the federation that encompasses all representatives of the country’s bullfighting sector. “Parties like PAN make hate speech against people who think otherwise. That is not democratic.”
Milheiro defends that an important part of the population is in favor of bullfights in Portugal . According to a study carried out by the company Eurosondagem , commissioned by ProTóiro, 30% of the Portuguese admit to being fond of bullfighting compared to 11% who call for the prohibition of these shows.
The rest are indifferent or claim to have no sympathy for bullfights, although they oppose their prohibition. The conclusion of the study is that almost nine out of ten Portuguese are not strictly against bullfighting activity.
These data contrast with those referring to the number of spectators in Portuguese bullrings, which has fallen by almost 50% in the last decade. According to data from the Ministry of Culture , in 2010 a total of 681,140 people attended bullfighting shows , compared to 383,900 in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.
The president of the Animal association, Rita Silva , assures that the data shows a decrease in interest in these shows, although she admits that there are still many people who do not take sides in this matter.
“In Portugal there is little culture of activism, there is much difficulty to take position. Despite the fact that many people do not show interest in bullfighting, there is still a lot of reluctance to explicitly support the ban, and that is a problem, “explains the activist.
De Sousa Real attributes this disinterest to misinformation . “There is a band of indifferent people because this activity has traditionally been whitewashed. Animal suffering is omitted in television broadcasts, and in the few cases in which such violence is shown, most people do not feel identified,” says the leader.
PAN, who has been against the retransmission of the bullfights on public television RTP . The deputy has also shown her rejection of the tribute made this Thursday to the equestrian bullfighter João Moura , who was arrested last year for an alleged crime of mistreatment against his dogs , which he left on the brink of starvation. Some 1,500 people protested against the act.
“This tribute is an exaltation of torture and violence, and shows that there are people who feel untouchable,” says de Sousa Real. The representatives of the bullfighting sector accuse animal organizations of mixing private life with the professional career of the bullfighter, whom they describe as “the last great revolutionary” of world equestrian bullfighting.