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MP wants to bring a bill to ban bullfighting in France

The left-wing MP is calling for a parliamentary debate into the practice, saying it is not a ‘French tradition’ but was imported from Spain

A photo of a bullfight taking place with a matador and a charging bull

Bullfighting fans argue that the practice is part of cultural identity but critics deny it is a French tradition Pic: Stephane Mafille / Shutterstock

A French MP is set to present a new parliamentary bill calling for a ban on bullfighting, which he has condemned as an “immoral spectacle”. 

Aymeric Caron is an MP for Paris in the La France Insoumise (LFI, left-wing) party.

He told AFP: “That bullfighting is an immoral spectacle, which no longer has a place in the 21st century, is, I think, a point of view that is shared by the majority of people in France. 

“This is a legal bill that I hope to see debated in the Assemblée [nationale] in November.”

Anti-bullfighting sentiment is spreading across most of the countries that still host the sport, including Spain, Portugal, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. 

In France, Claire Starozinski, president of the anti-bullfighting group Alliance Anticorrida, is also seeking to stoke the movement, and launched a media campaign on four TV channels in a bid to raise public awareness of bullfighting.

However, since 2004, no bill has been proposed to the Assemblée nationale in France, and there has been no parliamentary debate on whether to ban the practice outright.

Mr Caron, who identifies as ‘anti-speciesist’, meaning he opposes the consumption and exploitation of animals by humans, has said that he is aware that part of the challenge with the bill will be to convince members of his own party, and to win allies from within Parliament.

The MP is looking to change the penal code, which already punishes animal mistreatment, but which currently has an exception in article 521-1, which says that this punishment is “not applicable to bullfighting when a local, long-standing and uninterrupted tradition can be shown”.

A French tradition?

Mr Caron denies that bullfighting should be considered a “tradition” in France.

He said: “It is not a French tradition, it’s a Spanish tradition that was imported to France in the middle of the nineteenth century to please Napoleon III’s wife, who was Andalusian.”

However, towns in France that show bullfighting, especially those in the south west close to the Spanish border and the Mediterranean, have long said that bullfighting is a tradition for them.

These include: Bayonne, Dax, Mont-de-Marsan, Vic-Fezensac, Nîmes, Arles, and Béziers.

Jean-Luc Ambert, a bullfighting fan who travels around France and Spain to watch fights, told La Dépêche: “Those who want to ban it don't know it. Bullfighting is a drama, you’re close to death. It’s almost an anachronism that it exists, because people no longer live with death.

“We’re afraid of it, and yet it’s part of life.”

His friend Françoise said that bullfighting is not something they take lightly. She said: “It’s a serious show that we come to see with all the gravity required. A man is playing with his life, with respect for the animal, and the campaigners against it don’t understand that.”

Christian, a bullfighting fan in his 60s from Aix-en-Provence, said: “We have to preserve traditions. For me, bullfighting pleases me and I don’t see why someone would ban me from coming to see it.”

Political agenda

The president of the bullfighting cultural agency l'Observatoire national des Cultures taurines said that attempts to ban bullfighting come with every new legislature.

He said: "We say to political groups: what is the point of associating with this political proposal, which goes against a cultural freedom and identity that is protected by the constitution?”

MP Mr Caron has said that he recognises that he will need to rally politicians around his cause in order to push the bill through parliament.

He said that he is also unsure as to whether he will receive support from the ruling party, including head of the Assembleé, Aurore Bergé. In July 2021, Ms Bergé called for an end to the “barbaric practice” in an open letter signed by several centre-right figures.

However, Mr Caron asked: “Will she stick to her convictions, or will she play a political game that will stop her from supporting me?”

President Emmanuel Macron lost his majority in the Assembleé in June, making it even less clear which way the house might vote.

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