Bullfighting still benefits from millions of euros a year in EU agricultural subsidies | Bullfighting

Bullfights across Europe are being kept alive thanks to millions of euros donated by the EU, campaigners claim, despite attempts by MEPs to ban the subsidies.

The funding goes to farms that raise bulls to compete under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a long-standing system of subsidies to the sector.

The Spanish Union of Criadores de Toros de Lidia, which represents the interests of 347 breeders, estimated that a ban on the payment of subsidies would mean an economic hit of around €200m (£170m) a year for the sector across Europe.

In 2015, in a move hailed by animal rights activists who branded bullfighting a “cruel practice”, MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favor of blocking agricultural funds “for financing deadly bullfighting activities”.

More than six years later, however, there has been little change, as the ban was overturned over fears it would alter CAP legal provisions.

Joe Moran of animal rights organization Eurogroup for Animals said: “While we fully agree with MEPs in their moral outrage and what they are trying to do, the legal avenues to do this are quite difficult. . In fact, I would say they are impossible.

To completely remove the funds would require animal welfare to be an official EU competence, coupled with a law banning the breeding of bulls for this purpose or banning bullfighting altogether, Moran added.

EU official says if there are no funds specifically earmarked for breeding fighting bulls, ‘it’s not ruled out’, and bull breeders could still receive public funds from agricultural financing.

Since 2003, EU agricultural subsidies are mainly allocated according to the area of ​​land cultivated, rather than according to production or the final destination of the products.

Bulls in a Spanish farm. It is estimated that 1,000 farms raise animals for bullfighting across the EU. Photography: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty

Green MEPs tabled a CAP amendment in 2020 calling for a ban on livestock funds whose final destination was “sale for bullfighting-related activities”, but it was dropped when the European Commission, the EU Council and Parliament finalized the policy.

Portuguese MEP Francisco Guerreiro described the funds as “a lifeblood that continually helps this industry stay afloat” as the number of festivals involving bulls has declined.

Europe’s bullfighting industry has racked up reported losses of more than €150m (£125m) during the Covid pandemic, with events such as Pamplona’s San Fermín festival canceled and bulls sent straight to the slaughterhouse.

The pandemic hit as the sector struggled to recover from Spain’s economic crisis, which saw cash-strapped municipalities suspend festivals involving bulls. In 2007 – a year before the financial crash – 3,651 events featuring bulls took place across Spain. A decade later, the number of events had plunged to 1,553.

Breeders’ associations in Spain, France and Portugal continue to defend the approximately 1,000 farms raising bulls for bullfighting across the EU.

Antonio Bañuelos, president of Spain’s Unión de Criadores de Toros, said: “It is discriminatory to create this concept that the fate of these cattle can be linked to whether or not they receive funds. Many farms produce a variety of products while raising bulls, meaning any ban would erode their right to access finance on the same basis as other EU farmers, he said.

The industry has also lobbied MEPs saying fighting bulls, raised in large areas, have less impact on the environment than pigs or sheep.

An association of Spanish veterinarians opposed to bullfighting has said the public suffering inflicted on bulls is unjustifiable.

A protest against bullfighting outside Las Ventas bullring, Madrid in September 2021.
A protest against bullfighting outside Las Ventas bullring, Madrid, in September 2021. Photograph: Reuters

He told MPs that instruments ranging from barbed darts to an 80cm sword were used on bulls in bullfights which lasted around 15 minutes, causing “deep wounds, severe bleeding, intense suffering and death. painful”.

Bañuelos claimed that a fighting bull’s death is “faster and results in less suffering” than many commercially bred animals.

“There are thousands of animals that die every day in very painful circumstances. But the focus is on bullfighting because it is the most exposed in terms of publicity and it is an easy target”, a- he declared.

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