June 16, 2024

Colombia congress passes bill banning bullfighting

Colombia’s congress passed a bill Tuesday banning bullfighting, a controversial yet popular pastime in the South American country with hundreds of events drawing thousands of spectators every year.

Leftist President Gustavo Petro, who must approve the step, praised lawmakers for ensuring “death is not a spectacle” with a post on X.

The lower house gave the bill the green light with a 93-2 vote, backing a bullfighting ban from 2027.

The law would bring Colombia in line with other countries in the region that have banned bullfighting, including Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Guatemala.

Leading up to 2027, the state would be required to help find alternative employment options for the tens of thousands of people estimated to depend directly or indirectly on bullfighting for their income.

It would also have to adapt the country’s arenas for other sporting and cultural activities.

Lawmaker and environmentalist Juan Carlos Losada described the move as a “historical milestone”.

Colombia will leave the “sad list” of countries “where bullfighting, which is animal torture, is still considered a cultural institution,” he told AFP.

In 2018, the Constitutional Court recognized bullfights as part of Colombia’s cultural tradition.

But the capital Bogota — one of the oldest bullfighting cities in the Americas — since outlawed the injuring or killing of bulls, removing the goriest part of the spectacle in what it hoped would eventually bring an end to the blood sport.

The city of Medellin has also imposed restrictions, but bullfighting remains popular in cities like Cali and Manizales.

Colombia is one of only eight countries in the world where bullfights are still held — which are Ecuador, France, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain and Venezuela.

In Ecuador’s capital Quito, it is prohibited to kill the bull.

In Mexico, an estimated 40,000 spectators filled the largest bullring in the world in January after the Supreme Court revoked a suspension on the practice.

The Colombian legislation was tabled in 2020 during the presidency of right-winger Ivan Duque, but the vote was postponed.

Lawmakers backing the ban argued that bullfighting represents one of the most controversial elements of Spanish colonialism, while the practice is against constitutional rights to a healthy environment, human dignity and the recognition of animals as sentient beings due protection.

The parliamentary vote was preceded by a debate which included mayors, representatives from the livestock sector, bullfight organizers and multiple animal rights groups.

Bullfighter Johan Andres Paloma, 22, told AFP ahead of the vote that he was “proud” of his calling, which he described as “a symbol of identity” for many Colombians.

Paloma said 35,000 people depend directly on the bullfights, without counting those employed indirectly or informally in the sector.

According to the bullfighter, there are some 300 events held annually at around 70 locations in Colombia.

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