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Urtasun cancels the National Bullfighting Award for “animal torture” | Culture

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The Ministry of Culture announced this Friday that the National Bullfighting Award will not be awarded this year and that the administration has initiated the procedures for its definitive annulment. Minister Ernest Urtasun had already repeatedly expressed his opposition to shows based on animal abuse and, in fact, the ministry had not selected any representative of bullfighting for the Fine Arts medals. The measure has earned criticism from the bullfighting sector, PP and Vox, but also from socialist barons such as Emiliano García-Page. The last winner was Julián López, El Juli, last year, coinciding with his retirement after a quarter of a century in the rings.

This is not the first puddle that Urtasun has entered, having previously generated controversy by declaring, upon his arrival at the Ministry, culture as a “form of combat” against the discourses of the extreme right, or by proposing the decolonization of Spanish museums. And it was not a surprise: this opposition to bullfighting was already printed in the electoral program of the formation led by Yolanda Díaz and a member of the PSOE in the Pedro Sánchez government. There the repeal of the “cultural and heritage protection of bullfighting” is proposed, the limitation of the attendance of minors “in cruel shows with animals” and the “suppression of public financing of bullfighting shows with the death of the animal.”

“People understand less and less that animal torture is practiced and that prizes are dedicated to it,” Urtasun explained this Friday morning on the program Red Hotto which he subscribed this afternoon, in response to the movements of the regional governments, that “each one is free to, in what are his powers, reward what he wants”, although Spanish society prefers not to do so, he pointed out .

“We understand that the National Awards are designed to give visibility to cultural sectors that have great social support, and we consider that in these times concern for animal welfare has been increasing in society,” explain ministerial sources, who provide information : Only 1.9% of Spaniards attended a bullfighting show or celebration between 2021 and 2022, which was 5.9 points less compared to 2019, according to the Bullfighting statistics. “The next actions of the ministry regarding bullfighting will continue along the same lines,” assure the same sources.

A banderillero waits during a bullfight at La Candelaria bullring on February 5, 2022 in Valdemorillo, Madrid.Isabel Infantes (Getty Images)

The Urtasun department was loaded with data to support its decision. For example, according to a 2022 BBVA Foundation survey, the rating of the use of animals in bullfighting shows was 1.9 among Spaniards. The number of bullfights in Spain fell from 3,651 in 2007 to 1,546 in 2022. In some regions, such as the Canary Islands or Catalonia, bullfights are not held; In others such as Galicia, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Melilla, Cantabria or La Rioja they are, naturally, practically non-existent.

Discomfort and parallel rewards

The news, as expected, caused deep discomfort in the bullfighting sector and some regional governments came out in a rush to announce their desire to create their own bullfighting awards. Shortly after the news became known, the bullfighting sector showed its indignation in the mouth of Vitorino Martín, president of the Toro de Lidia Foundation (FTL), who declared to the Efe agency that Urtasun “is not fulfilling his obligations” as a public office and is exercising a discriminatory manner against bullfighting “for ideological reasons.” The foundation will consider taking action against the suppression and awarding the 2024 prize on its own. “If he doesn’t like them (the bulls), it is respectable, but he is not there to do what he likes, but to govern for all Spaniards,” added the rancher.

The idea of ​​setting up new parallel prizes arose simultaneously in several places, such as in the Junta de Extremadura or in Valencia, where the first vice president, Vicente Barrera (Vox), who was previously a bullfighter, declared: “This is a symbol of attack on freedom of expression, when the role of the State should be to promote and protect the cultural diversity that characterizes our country.”

Also on the other side of the ideological spectrum, where Emiliano García-Page, president of Castilla-La Mancha and socialist frequently critical of the official line, announced on his X account that he would initiate contacts with the bullfighting world to create bullfighting awards in his community. “These awards also have the ambition of being able to be coordinated or shared with other autonomies, since we intend for them to have national and international scope,” he tweeted.

The bullfighter Morante de la Puebla (first from the right) collects the 2021 National Bullfighting Award in Zaragoza.  From the left, the president of Aragon, Javier Lambán, Kings Felipe and Letizia and the Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta.
The bullfighter Morante de la Puebla (first from the right) collects the 2021 National Bullfighting Award in Zaragoza. From the left, the president of Aragon, Javier Lambán, Kings Felipe and Letizia and the Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta.Javier Cebollada (EFE)

For his part, Mariano de Paco, Minister of Culture of the Community of Madrid, described the elimination of the award as “regrettable” and urged Urtasun to “focus” on the problems of culture, where there are “many pending issues.” In the same sense, Marta Rivera de la Cruz, Cultural delegate of the City Council of the capital, expressed herself, who also used a well-worn argument of authority in defense of bullfighting: “Lorca, Picasso, Chaves Nogales or Enrique Tierno Galván would be today “very displeased with the Ministry’s decision.”

“We would be doing a disservice if we did not adapt to the new realities of society. I believe that we have made a decision that is shared by the majority of Spaniards and that is in line with the Animal Welfare Law. I think that those who make fuss are a clear minority,” Urtasun answered in the program Red Hot, in La Sexta. In reference to the initiatives of different regional governments to create new awards, he said: “If there are those who believe that animal abuse should be rewarded with public money, they are free to do so within the framework of their powers.”

One more artistic discipline

The National Bullfighting Award was created in 2011 under the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, although it was awarded for the first time in 2013, when it fell into the hands of Paco Ojeda. In some way, it meant recognition of bullfighting as one of the fine arts, since the other national awards are dedicated to artistic disciplines such as theater, narrative, comics or dance. It had a prize of 30,000 euros, which was 10,000 more than some of the other awards, such as poetry. Current legislation considers bullfighting as part of cultural heritage, worthy of protection and promotion throughout the national territory. The reason for the suppression of the award for these dates responds solely to the rhythms of the National Awards and the training of the juries, according to the Ministry.

“My position is known on this issue. Bullfighting is a great Spanish tradition, but, like everything in life, traditions evolve, right? I have said it many times, I believe that a large majority of society does not agree with animal abuse,” Minister Urtasun had explained in an interview with this newspaper.

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