The man, named as 34-year-old Dutchman Peter Janssen from the association Vegan Strike Group, jumped into the arena on Tuesday August 15 - while a fight with a bull was taking place - to denounce the tradition of the ‘corrida’.
According to reports, the man’s torso was painted with slogans, and he shouted messages to the French President, Emmanuel Macron, including: “Macron, our traditions are not bloody!” and “Let’s not confuse barbarity with tradition”.
Officials at the bullring stopped Janssen from running further into the ring, and he was then held by the commissariat of Bayonne before being released.
The move came hours after an ‘anticorrida’ protest had taken place in Bayonne itself, and only three days after Janssen and Joël Cessio, another member of the Vegan Strike Group, jumped into an arena in Dax, on the second day of its ‘feria’ festival.
All of the activists - including Jenssen and Cessio - claim to promote animal rights and veganism.
Last month, they also jumped in protest into bullfights in Pamplona and Teruel in Spain, causing them to be found guilty of disturbing the public peace, and fined €1 440.
“The ‘responsibility’ is backwards,” says Cessio, who daubed the message ‘No more murder’ on his chest before jumping into the ring in Dax. “People speak about ‘crimes’ against traditions, but we’re just denouncing the torturing of an animal until its death under the screams of a crowd. Our actions are peaceful, in contrast to those who are violent towards us.”
Video footage on Twitter - filmed by a spectator, shown below - exists of officials and police holding Cessio forcibly down on the floor of the bullring in Dax, and leading him out of the arena with his hands held behind his back.
As for Janssen, he is also said to have jumped into a public arena - including bullrings, and even a dolphin tank - in protest up to 29 times overall, in a gesture that, he says, “is a punch [in the face] against all forms of animal exploitation for the purposes of human entertainment”.
Bullfighting has been legal in certain regions in France since 1951, and has divided opinion for years.
From 2011 to 2015, the practice was listed as part of the “cultural heritage” of France by the minister for culture, before being removed from the list by the administrative court of Paris in June 2015, and definitively taken off the Unesco heritage list in July 2016.
Activist groups regularly call for the banning of the practice entirely, with a group named the AnimalPolitique Collective purporting to bring together 26 non-governmental animal welfare organisations from across the 10 French departments affected by bullfighting (Aude, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Gers, Gironde, Hérault, Landes, Pyrenees -Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Orientales).
A recent study from the group claimed that over 75% of inhabitants in the departments were concerned about the practice, but a reply from two pro-bullfighting organisations, the Union of French Bullfighting Towns and the National Observatory of Bullfighting Culture, read: “A cultural reality should never be subject to the results of a survey. The bullfighting community has the right to be respected.”