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French anti-bullfighting bill hits legal issues

MPs at a pre-debate commission agreed with amendments from the right and far-right aimed at suppressing the bill

The anti-corrida bill will be presented before MPs on November 24 Pic: Valeniker / Shutterstock

French MPs are reported to have today allowed amendments to be added to a bill designed to stop bullfighting in France, which would cancel its effects.

The bill was put forward by the far-left La France Insoumise party and the government yesterday said it would oppose it on the basis that bullfighting is a French tradition in some regions.

A group of MPs who examine proposed laws before full debate today approved amendments from the conservative Les Républicains and far-right Rassemblement National (RN) that remove the substance of the bill.

The bill was put forward by LFI MP Aymeric Caron, a former high-profile journalist and staunch ecologist, who today blamed "massive pressure from lobbies" for the MPs' decision.

It aims to change the French criminal code, which contains rules punishing abuse of animals but includes wording that that the punishments do not apply in the case of bullfights which are carried out according to an unbroken local tradition.

The hearing today was by the Commission des lois. Its role is to prepare bills ready for debate and consider them in the light of French laws and the Constitution.

The MPs' decision, reported by Agence France Presse, is a second nail in the coffin for those who are against bullfighting, after the government said it would not support the bill. 

It came as a surprise to some, considering the Assemblée nationale’s president Aurore Bergé – a member of government coalition Renaissance – had not given voter orders to affiliated MPs.

Read also: Majority of French MPs expected to back anti-bullfighting bill

Read also: French parliament to debate banning traditional corrida bullfighting

The topic of the bill is very divisive in France, including within some parties in the centre, right and far-right.

It was, however, believed to be supported by many members of the ruling Renaissance party, as well as some MPs from far-right Rassemblement National (RN). Marine Le Pen – who presides over the RN’s members in the Assemblée nationale – had not given voter orders either. 

The change does not, however, mean the bill has been rejected outright as it may still be presented on November 24 as part of LFI’s ‘niche parlementaire’, a 24-hour period every month in which opposition parties can be heard on as many bills as they can present in that time.

Mr Caron’s bill is currently fourth in a list of 12 brought forward by LFI. If it gets debate time, this will be the first time in French politics that an anti-corrida bill has been discussed in the Assemblée nationale.

“The simple fact of it being discussed is already historic,” said Thierry Hély, president of the Fédération des luttes pour l'abolition des corridas (FLAC), an organisation which opposes bullfighting. 

Pro-corrida associations and elected officials have already organised protest marches next Saturday in several cities of southern France where bullfighting is an important aspect of the community. 

Secretary of State for Rural Affairs Dominique Faure will defend the government’s position at the Assemblée nationale. This is seen by some as a decision designed to end rumours about the involvement of Minister of Justice Éric Dupond-Moretti, a strong pro-corrida voice in the government.

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