Bogotá's Bullfighting Ban Falls in Court

Supporters of bullfighting have petitioned the Constitutional Court to overturn the ban in Bogotá, Colombia Fernando Vergara/AP

Bullfighting can return to Bogotá's Santamaria Plaza, Colombia's Constitutional Court said Tuesday. The city's mayor had banned the spectacle in 2012.

The high court ruled that the artistic rights of the Corporación Taurina de Bogotá, or CTB, which organizes the bullfights, had been violated and ordered the District Institute of Recreation and Sport to reinstate bullfighting events at the Moorish-style plaza.

The recreation institute "unjustifiably restricted the right of the CTB to promote and diffuse a spectacle protected as an artistic and cultural manifestation," said the ruling. Judge Mauricio González Cuervo had been expected to rule in favor of the CTB, according to local reports last month.

At least eight novilleros, the bullfighters responsible for slaughtering young bulls, began a hunger strike last month to pressure the court to rule in their favor. Three of them, who have followed a liquid-only diet during nights when the temperature has dropped to 46 degrees, were taken to clinics for health complications.

According to Semana, a news magazine, Bogotá's Mayor Gustavo Petro held a "very tense" meeting with the striking apprentice toreros in August, during which he said that he would rather step down than reopen the plaza to bullfighting.

Reactions to the ruling on social media were mostly disappointment, including Petro's.

"I'm sorry that we still have sectors of society that have fun with death. There is no fundamental right to kill," tweeted Petro, who has said that the abolition of slavery and the games in the Roman Colosseum are evidence that the sacrifice of living beings as entertainment is outdated.

"I respect the law but I am ashamed by it! #BogotaWithoutBullfighting #AnimalRights," tweeted Miguel Angel Julio, who describes himself as an environmentalist, anthropologist and social investigator. He attached a photograph of a dying bull, bloodied spears hanging from his back.

Bullfighting has been an integral part of national identity in Spain and its former colonies, though anti-bullfighting movements have intensified in Mexico and Venezuela in recent years.

Last month, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to the director of the CTB offering to pick up the tab for retraining the city's bullfighters in other occupations. Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of PETA U.S., suggested death-related trades such as funeral attendant, mortuary cosmetologist or graveyard security guard.