The parliament of Spain has banned “comic bullfighting” events featuring people of short stature dressed in costumes taunting bulls, which has been a centuries-old type of bullfighting characterised for being of a “humorous” nature. Often performed as preambles of lethal bullfights, people of short stature in Spain have long dressed as firefighters or clowns to chase bulls without killing them, but now these events will be banned while the torturing and killing of the bulls by taller people will still be allowed. These sorts of events are similar to the use of short clowns in rodeos in the US.
The ban prohibits “recreational shows or activities in which people with disabilities, or this circumstance, are used to provoke mockery or ridicule from the public in a manner contrary to the respect due to human dignity.”
Jesús Martín, the director general of Spain’s Royal Board on Disabilities, which advises the social rights ministry that pushed the ban forward in parliament, said to the Guardian that “We have overcome the Spain of the past. People with dwarfism were subjected to mockery in public squares in our country, passing down the idea that it is OK to laugh at difference, to so many girls and boys who go with adults to see these shameful performances.”
As any abolition of any type of bullfight is progress towards the abolition of the entire cruel spectacle, animal protection organisations have welcomed this ban, but it must be stressed that what has been banned is not what those short-statured bullfighters have been doing to bulls (humiliating them, teasing them, and exhausting them for laughs), as taller people will still be allowed to do it, perhaps with less emphasis in a “comical” interpretation of what is essentially animal abuse.
Unfortunately, Spanish politicians are more concerned about the perception that these comic bullfights may be humiliating people with disabilities, than with the reality that people, with or without disabilities, are teasing and torturing bulls in public for entertainment. The fact that the bullfighters of short stature themselves are protesting against this ban speaks volumes about who are the real victims of bullfighting and how they have been ignored.