BULL-fighting has been ruled to be legal under the French constitution, the Conseil Constitutionnel said today.
High-profile campaigners including Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo had called for the corrida to be banned as cruel. They said animal protection laws should apply equally throughout France and not be waived in "areas with a tradition of bull-fighting".
The judges said that such "differences in treatment" for bull-fighting regions such as the south and south-west were not outside the constitution, which gave "precise, objective and rational" criteria of "uninterrupted local tradition". They added that this also allowed cock-fighting in the Antilles.
The Conseil Constitutionnel was asked for a prelimary ruling after anti-corrida groups Droits Des Animaux and Comité Radicalement Anti-Corrida (Crac) had lodged a complaint calling for the corrida to be taken off France's heritage list, a position awarded by former culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand.
This week Interior Minister Manuel Valls - who was born in Spain and moved to France as a child - made a passionate call for the corrida to be allowed.
He told BFMTV news that it was vital to maintain traditions in an economic crisis: "It's a culture that we have to preserve. We need these roots, we should not tear them out."
He was speaking after last weekend's bull-fighting festival in Nîmes, Gard, when Spanish star matador José Tomás fought six bulls, killing five and pardonning one for its brave fight.
France has other styles of bull-fighting that do not involve killing, with the course libre or camarguaise in Languedoc where reseteurs try to grab a rosette from the bull's head. In course landaise teams dodge the cow so a sauteur can jump over it.