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Bullfighting in France: brutal sport, or national culture?


corrida in Arles
corrida in Arles
When you think bullfighting, you think Spain. Well, France also has a bullfighting tradition, though it’s come under criticism for being, well, too violent. The group that regulates French advertising has banned an ad showing a bull being killed during a match. RFI’s Anustup Roy meets some aficionados and some detractors of the sport:

Bull fighting season in France continues through the last week of August. For the past few decades, a group of NGO’s working for better treatment for animals are trying to stop this practice.

The French advertisement regulatory body, the BVP, stopped an anti-bullfighting advertisement from going on air. The real-life ad shows a matador drilling a knife into the head of a bull after piercing some spears into it’s flesh. The regulatory body BVA argued that the advertisement was too violent to be shown on television. Animal Rights organisations are up in arms

On the other side of the bullfighting debate are those who support the sport. And that includes the French Prime Minister François Fillon, Even the French President Nicholas Sarkozy is believed to be a lover of the game.

Now coming back to banning of the advertisement, the group which wanted the ad to go on air now has a new argument. It criticizes the BVA for banning the advert instead of banning the practice. The Brigitte Bardot foundation is an NGO for animal Rights. Christophe Mari of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation says, the BVA is giving conflicting messages.

The BVP decided to ban the advertisement. And this shows a double speak on their behalf, because they do not want the French citizens to see cruel acts on the TV, but they do not ban kids from going to bull fighting shows. I mean, bull fighting is banned in the north of france, but some one living there can go to the South of France and see it live, but not on a TV ad.”

suffering isn’t a spectacle – billboard from anti-corrida campain
And these days, you do see TV reports on the bull fighting festivals. But do TV journalists show you images of the bull being killed? Never ! They will show you people entering the arena, people laughing, it is fun, this that. But never will they show violent killings of bulls.

That said, the basic problem is that we are in the 21st century, and whether it is a tradition or not, it is unacceptable to carry on such cruel and violent sports.

Christophe Mari of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation in Paris.

“The French legislation considers bull fighting a criminal offence. But on paper, these laws do not apply to 13 provinces where bull fighting is considered a tradition. And in reality, bullfighting is practiced in almost the whole of the south of France.”

There are two kinds of bull fighting – the one practiced in the south western coast of France is less violent – ribbons are tied to the horns of the bull, and the game is to pull those ribbons out. But the more violent kind of bull fighting where the animal is killed to death came to France from Spain in the 1850s. Those who love this second type ,say, it has become a French tradition.

Arena in arles
Arena in arles
Yves Thréard is the Deputy Director of the French Daily newspaper Le Figaro. He wrote an editorial to explain why he supported bullfighting.

“I love bull fighting shows. I appreciate it when it is done by a skilled matador. I think that the anti- bull fighting groups- their arguments are not very strong. They say “oh, the world is boring, because people around the planet are now loosing their differences and their traditions”. But they forget that by attacking bull fighting, they are contradicting themselves. Bull fighting is a French tradition, the bulls are born and reared for the sport, and nothing else.”

In neighbouring Spain, the state owned TV channel made history by not broadcasting for the first , a single bull fighting match this year. For Network Europe in Paris, I am Anustup Roy

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