Bullfighting supporters in France are joining together against a law that is aiming to ban the practice, with demonstrations, an open letter, and videos published online among their counter-attacks.
The movement comes after Paris LFI MP, Aymeric Caron, submitted a bill that would outlaw bullfighting in France.
Bullfighting is highly-contested, with many animal welfare associations having long called for a ban, but proponents in towns where bullfighting is still popular claim that the activity is a sport with a long tradition and culture.
Proponents have sought to have the activity defined as a “local, uninterrupted tradition”, which has meant that it has been allowed to continue on historical grounds. For example, in Nimes, the first bullfight took place in 1853.
Nimes bar manager and lifelong fan Correntin Carpentier, told le Point: “Some say that [the law] will not pass, but I think there is a risk.”
He argues that bullfighting helps to “create social links”, and that breeding bulls for the sport “protects biodiversity”. He also added that bullfighting helps to bring “more than €100millon in revenue to the economy of the south of France”.
Mr Carpentier created a pro-bullfighting movement in 2015, dubbed l’Union des jeunes de Provence et du Languedoc pour la defense de nos traditions (The union of young people in Provence and Languedoc for the defence of our traditions).
Today, the group brings together 38 associations of young pro-bullfighting proponents, from across four departments (Gard, Hérault, Bouches-du-Rhône, and Vaucluse), and has 3,000 members.
Virgile Alexandre, president of bullfighting bull farmers’ association l'Association des éleveurs français des taureaux de combat, said: “As farmers and organisers of bullfights, we have built a machine so that young people are those who carry on our message.”
Yesterday afternoon, farming representatives spoke with the mayor of Arles, Patrick de Carolis, and the president of the PACA region, Renaud Muselier, during a large pro-bullfighting march in front of the Arles arena, ahead of a major bullfight that was taking place as part of the feria du Riz.
Another protest is set to take place next week, calling for “the freedom of our regional cultures and for people of the bulls”. It will take place during the feria de Vendanges in Nîmes.
The director of the Nîmes and Madrid arenas, Simon Casas, is expected to be in attendance, along with representatives from l’Union des jeunes, and ex-bullfighter Marie Sarah.
Organisers have also set up an online crowdfund to pay for the filming and distribution of a pro-bullfighting video as part of the counter-protests. Already, €12,000 have been amassed.
Thomas Pagnon, a 24-year-old who is the current president of l’Union des jeunes, said: “We coordinated with the association of the southwest, which is also organising support marches during the ferias of Bayonne and Dax.”
Members of the southwest and southeast met last March in the nightclub meeting point in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, la Churascaïa, to found the Union de la jeunesse taurine française, with Mr Carpentier appointed its spokesperson.
It has now written a pro-bullfighting open letter, “signed by 110 young people from 110 towns with a bullfighting tradition in the south of France”, said Mr Carpentier. The letter is set to be published in the national press next week.
Mr Carpentier wants to share the pro-bullfighting message even further than the south of France and areas in which there is already a tradition.
He said: “We must not rest on our laurels. If Aymeric Carron wins the anti-bullfighting fight, then pony rides, horse riding, hunting, and fishing - all the values linked to rural life - will be attacked next.”