MORE than 80 animal rights groups have protested outside the Culture Ministry and in towns across the country against the listing of bullfighting as part of France’s heritage It came after Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said Spanishstyle bullfighting had been added to an inventory of the cultural heritage of France. This is the first stage towards it possibly being listed by Unesco as “World Intangible Heritage,” a broad category that includes such items as “the French meal” and a Turkish oil wrestling festival.
Mr Mitterrand’s announcement was greeted with cheers at the opening of the corrida season in the bullfighting heartland of Arles. However it was quickly condemned by more than 50 cross-party MPs who said it was a disgrace France had become the first country to list “torture” as part of its heritage. Brigitte Bardot’s animal charity and rights group 30 Millions d’Amis attacked the listing, with Ms Bardot calling Mr Mitterrand “Minister of Ignorance” and telling him “you’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life”.
Jean-Pierre Garrigues, of anti-corrida group Crac, said bullfighting fans – who include President Sarkozy and Prime Minister François Fillon – had “crossed a red line.” He said putting bullfighting on the heritage list had “scandalised” many French people.
Mr Mitterrand’s office confirmed bullfighting had been listed on the inventory as it is practised in some parts of France but, when asked to comment on the opposition to it by The Connexion, would only say that the protests would “be considered by the minister”.
In an interview in Paris Match Mr Mitterrand said he had “no particular affection for bullfighting, nor for hunting, nor for killing animals for their fur”. He added: “The addition of bullfighting to a simple heritage inventory certainly does not mean the Culture Ministry supports the addition of bullfighting to the Unesco heritage list.”
A ministry spokewoman said listing on the inventory follows recommendations from cultural researchers. However only limited selections from it are eventually put forward by France to Unesco, with the government’s explicit support, she said. Nonetheless, the president of bullfighting body Observatoire National des Cultures Taurines, André Viard, was cheered by the crowds at Arles Arena when he told them “bullfighting has been enshrined on the French list of cultural heritage.”
“France has become the first in the world to do this,” he said. The Observatoire, and a union of bullfighting towns, had been lobbying for the activity’s inclusion since 2009.
Alpes-Maritimes UMP Party MP Muriel Marland-Militello challenged Mr Mitterrand, saying “the corrida is the negation of French culture”.
She added in a letter to him: “How can a practice liable to two years’ jail and a €30,000 fine in the vast bulk of the country be elevated to being part of our national heritage because it is allowed in several areas?”