A bullfighting festival in southern France that is traditionally held to launch the start of the country’s bullfighting season has been cancelled, and all future bullfighting events in the village have been banned.
The Féria du Rhôny is usually held every spring in Vergèze, in Gard, Occitanie. It is usually considered to be the festival that launches France’s annual bullfighting season.
Municipal authorities in the town - including new mayor Pascale Fortunat-Deschamps - have confirmed that the next festival will not go ahead, and that all future bullfighting events will now be prohibited in Vergèze.
In a statement, authorities said that the reason for the ban was partly financial, and that they wanted to prioritise more popular events, and could no longer ensure the safety of events that involved bulls.
The issue had previously been a subject of discussion during the mayoral election campaigns.
The Féria du Rhôny may come back as a springtime “Fête de Printemps” festival instead, the mairie suggested.
The decision has been met with a mixed response from locals.
One inhabitant of the village told local news service France 3: “It’s a bit annoying. These events are emblematic of our region.”
But another said: “It’s good to show that we can do things [other than bullfighting] in Vergèze; traditions are not the only thing that count.”
Bullfighting club Areneros Fiesta Brava, which has been located in the village for 35 years, said the decision was difficult to take.
Camille Martinion, one of the club co-presidents, said: “Since the announcement from the mairie, we have received enormous numbers of disappointed messages. This shows that we were known and important in Vergèze.”
Henri Diop, another club co-president, said: “We are going to try to bounce back. We will see if it is possible to organise outings instead.”
The decision comes just over a year after a bull escaped during an event in Vergèze, injuring six people, including two gendarmes.
During the 2019 Féria du Rhôny in May last year, the animal managed to kick through a door and ran through a crowd of hundreds, appearing to target two horses that were set to take part in a show, severely injuring one of them.
One woman was injured by a bullet shot by a gendarme who was trying to control the bull; while another gendarme was himself gored in the thigh. The bull was later shot dead.
Two investigations were opened at the time into the circumstances surrounding the bull’s escape and the use of firearms by gendarmerie at the scene.