Spanish society is becoming wound up in another battle – this time it’s not about employment, honest politicians, nationalism, sexual equality or vice – but rather for the status of animals. It is centred on the bulls, naturally enough, since Spain is one of only a few countries in the world where you will still find la tauromachía practiced, but also increasingly around the ethical treatment of other creatures.
For example, should feral cats be neutered? They infest certain barrios and towns, particularly in tourist areas where they are fed by well-meaning residents. The law in Catalonia says that they can’t be poisoned as they are considered ‘companion animals’, so the choices are a costly neutering program (the one that gets away will have numerous kittens) or simply doing nothing, in the hope that they’ll move away (they won’t). The rest of Spain appears to leave the problem and solution to the local municipality.
Abandoned dogs are not left in colonias as the cats are, but are rather taken to shelters where they may meet their end in 72 hours, although some regions have banned euthanasia and the animals are presumably kept there, perhaps forever. There are some 110,000 dogs abandoned each year in Spain, and we have all seen the touching adverts of the forsaken dog on the road saying ‘I would never leave you’.
Other animals seem to be under the protection of Seprona (a unit of the Guardia Civil) and some species will be considered ‘invasive’ (the raccoon for example) and will be trapped and destroyed.
And so, the bulls. There is the traditional corrida loved or hated (or ignored) by Spaniards –illegal now in a few parts of Spain (probably for political rather than ethical reasons) and then there’s the much less formal bull-baiting, known in Catalonian as ‘correbou’. This is some form of bull running – usually a local festival of questionable taste. A recent story much in the news this week has two protestors filming at an event being violently set upon by some supporters. Were the protestors – known as antitaurinos – justified in provoking the supporters or not? – the Reader must decide for him or herself. Another more famous antitaurino, the Dutchman Peter Jannsen, who sometimes jumps into a bullring during a faena, is putting the participants in danger (as if there wasn’t enough already in the bullring). So, are the animal-rights people guilty of sometimes choosing an animal’s life over a human’s? Perhaps so. Another question to consider: Should an ‘anti’ have the right, either moral or indeed legal, to interrupt a lawful activity paid for by a crowd of enthusiasts?
There’s even an animal-rights political party in Spain called PACMA (Wiki), which, if a little light on general policy, is firm on anything to do with animals. It naturally wants bullfighting banned. It pulled 220,000 votes in the General Elections in December.
So, are animals to be eaten, worked and kept as pets, as seems to be the traditional role for them, or should they be treated as Beings trapped within a ball of fur, but with human feelings and rights?The last word goes to a bullfighter called José Antonio Morante de la Puebla, who, faced with an antitaurino protest in Ronda last year, said ‘I’m a bullfighter, not a murderer’.