Ahead of the Falles festival in which highly realistic big paper monuments are paraded and then burnt, anti-bullfighting activists staged a colourful protest in Valencia, Spain, on 13th March 2022. More than fifty activists of the international animal protection organisations AnimaNaturalis and CAS International gathered in the Plaza San Agustín to protest the bullfights that take place during the Falles. They raised large banners with the disjointed faces of bullfighters just before killing the bull, surrounding a woman dressed in the traditional Valencian clothes (fallera) as a symbol of the victims of bullfighting.
Eliana Guerreño, coordinator of AnimaNaturalis in Valencia, said, “The debate about the future of bullfighting in Spain has never been more alive and the authorities must position themselves before the issue without half measures…The pandemic showed that society does not miss bullfighting and that this bloody industry depends on subsidies and public aid…Our fiestas should celebrate life and not death. They should promote the culture that unites us and not the one that divides us. That makes us feel proud to be Valencian, and not that fills us with shame.”
According to the veterinary association AVATMA, official data from the Ministry of Culture and the bullfighting sector shows that the number of bullfights in Valencia’s bullring has been declining from 2016 onwards (without counting the pandemic years). Only 9.5% of the population attended a bullfight from 2014 to 2015, and 2 out of 10 of those spectators did so with a free ticket.
The same study indicates that 80% of bullfights in Spain are concentrated in the provinces of Madrid, Toledo, Salamanca, Ávila and Cuenca, and that there are ten other provinces where none has been held recently. At present, three Spanish autonomous communities already consider bullfighting abolished: the Canary Islands, Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands. The last two are part of what is considered “Catalan Countries” as Catalan is spoken there, but the Valencian Community is also part of them, so there is hope that one day it will also abolish bullfighting. The Falles festival in Valencia was added to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list on 30th November 2016, but bullfighting is not really an integral part of it, just the burning of the paper sculptures is.