Animal protection charity Humane Society International/Europe has slammed the Spanish Constitutional Court’s recent ruling to overturn the Balearic Islands’ ban on bullfighting. The de facto ban was contained in a new animal protection law with specific Articles designed to so tightly regulate the cruel practice of bullfighting as to effectively make the blood-sport untenable. Polls show that the majority of Spanish people don’t support bullfighting.

The Madrid government contests that the ban invades state competences in respect of protecting bullfighting as a national cultural institution because the legislative restrictions make it “impossible to recognise the core characteristics of the bullfight, which has been protected by the state”. The court’s decision came on Dec 21st 2017 which campaigners suspect was deliberately timed to be under-reported in the holiday period.

“It is absolutely shameful that the court’s desire to defend the brutal and anachronistic spectacle of bullfighting took precedence over the Balearic Islanders’ compassionate choice to relegate the torture of animals for public entertainment to the annals of history. This retrograde ruling by Spain’s Constitutional Court is out of step with progressive animal welfare, and senselessly yokes Spain to an outdated cruelty that the vast majority of Spanish people would prefer to leave behind them. The term culture is being shamelessly exploited by the elite to cling on to animal cruelty when the rest of Spain has moved on to a new culture of compassion,” said Dr Jo Swabe, Senior Director of Public Affairs for Humane Society International/Europe.

The annulled legislation (Law 9/2017), which was adopted by the Parliament of the Balearic Islands in July 2017, included measures such as banning the use of sharp implements, limiting bulls to just 10 minutes in the ring and banning bull slaughter, which effectively made it impossible to hold bullfights or bull fiestas in this autonomous community.

An explicit bullfighting ban in Catalonia was previously annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2016, but the bullfighting ban in the Canaries remains formally unchallenged.

A 2016 opinion poll of Spanish citizens by IPSOS MORI showed that only 19% of adults in Spain aged 16-65 years said they support bullfighting (with only 8% strongly supporting), compared to 58% who oppose it. Additionally, 67% of respondents said they were not proud to live in a country where bullfighting is a cultural tradition, and 73% disagree with public funds being used to promote bullfighting as part of Spain’s national heritage.