Spain Overturns Catalan Bullfighting Ban, Sparking Tensions

Bullfighting ban
Animal rights activists protest against the decision of the Spanish Constitutional Court to annul the Catalan regional government's prohibition of bullfighting, Barcelona, October 7. Albert Gea/Reuters

Spain's highest court has overturned a ban on bullfighting passed by the Catalan parliament in 2011, putting it on a collision course with secessionist politicians in the region.

The constitutional court ruled that Catalonia does have the power to regulate or ban public spectacles, but in the specific case of bullfighting its place at the heart of Spanish heritage meant the ban could not prevail.

When the ban came into force in 2012 it had little direct impact because there was only one functioning bullring in the region, in its capital, Barcelona.

But it was seen both as a symbolic victory for campaigners, who argue that the sport is cruel, and as a step towards independence for Catalonia, which is engaged in a push to break with Spain and begin life as an independent country.

Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau said on Twitter she would resist the court's decision, and would continue to "enforce regulations that prevent animal abuse."

Barcelona és ciutat antitaurina des de 2004. Digui el q digui el TC, farem complir les normatives que impedeixen el maltractament a animals

— Ada Colau 💜🌈🔻 (@AdaColau) October 20, 2016

In this she was supported by the region's pro-independence government, El Pais reported. Environment minister Josep Rull insisted that, whatever the court's view, Catalonia would "never again" play host to bullfights.

Catalonia and the constitutional court have clashed before, with the court declaring that a referendum held in 2014 on independence for the region was unconstitutional.

Jordi Casamitjana, head of policy and research for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "This ban is extremely important not just for Catalans but for the entire world, which has already condemned the court's verdict.

"The passing of the ban was a momentous milestone in animal protection and it was brought directly by the Catalan public supported by politicians and the international community."