Several mayoral election candidates in Nîmes (Gard), Béziers (Hérault) and Carcassonne (Aude, all Occitanie) have especially drawn attention to the issue, although the majority appears to still be pro-bullfighting, or ambivalent.
The fact that the issue is being discussed at all has been hailed as a victory by one anti-bullfighting association.
Claire Starozinski, president of the Alliance Anticorrida, said: “In Nîmes, this is the first time in at least 25 years that people are speaking about bullfighting during a municipal campaign. This is a positive sign, because during previous elections, almost no candidate in a bullfighting town dared talk about this.”
The association also polled candidates in bullfighting towns, to see where they stood on the issue. Of 124 candidates asked, 113 were classified as “pro-bullfighting or similar”.
But Ms Starozinski said she was happy to note the 11 candidates who were not pro-bullfighting. Measures suggested have included the replacement of bullfights with other shows, the stopping of mayoral subsidies to the bullfighting industry, and the organisation of a local referendum on the issue.
One anti-bullfighting candidate, Stéphane Gilli, from animal rights party Parti Animaliste in Nîmes, said: “We are the only ones here to come out against bullfighting. Even the candidates that have support from ecology groups have fans [of bullfighting among them], and they appear to be in a very good position.
“This is why we have entered the campaign.”
Mr Gilli added: “I have been threatened and insulted on social networks, with threats levelled at my business too. People only speak to me about bullfighting; the other issues that we have talked about in this campaign are not prompting a debate.”
In Béziers, candidates are promising a referendum. In Carcassonne, three candidates have come out to say they support the banning of bullfighting “shows”.
Public opinion against bullfighting?
In January this year, a representative online poll by Ifop for animal welfare group 30 Millions d’Amis found that 59% of French people would be ready to vote for a candidate seeking to protect animal welfare. This jumped to 78% among people aged 18-24.
In the same poll, almost three quarters (73%) of people said they would support a bullfighting ban.
On Monday (March 2), the Alliance Anticorrida launched a new campaign in the regional press, calling for candidates and voters to take a stand against this “barbaric spectacle”.
And this weekend, animal rights association L214 is set to launch a poster campaign in Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux.
Activists will affix posters on walls showing politicians Rachida Dati, Gérard Collomb and Nicolas Florian along with the slogan: “Committed to making animals suffer”, with a list of the politicians’ alleged actions that L214 says are damaging to animals.
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