BILBAO – The sharp decline in public interest seems to mark the end of bullfighting as an age-old Spanish tradition. Opponents applaud the demise and say that the controversial popular entertainment involving the torture of animals is no longer appropriate in this day and age.
The recent bullfights during the Bilbao Feria confirm the decline of this tradition in Spain. The event was again held this year with the very minimal public interest. Less than half of the stands were filled during the four days of bullfights. A complete failure that has impressed the biggest critics of this tradition. The situation in which the sport finds itself can therefore be described as alarming.
Opponents happy with this trend
“The turnout in Bilbao’s bullring is absolutely dramatic for the fourth straight night in a row,” said a true fan of bullfighting. On social media, many are hailing the demise of Bilbao’s legendary arena BIVA – formerly Vista Alegra – as a result. It has been losing more than half a million euros annually from far too low incomes since 2017. Animal rights activists are grateful to the residents of Bilbao for their lack of interest in the event, which they believe is pure animal abuse.
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Bullfighting doesn’t interest people anymore
“Bullfighting is no longer interesting. It is a cruel and ancient event that discredits our country. It is only maintained with public money,” said Hugo Martínez Abarca, deputy of the progressive local political party Más Madrid. The politician once again emphasised that the tradition is no longer current. Moreover, it is now clear that without subsidies from the Ministry of Culture, the world of bullfighting would go bankrupt.
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Still a single proponent
Antonio Lorca, the bullfighting critic for the newspaper El Pais, laments that the great popular festival that once was bullfighting is now in such a dilapidated state. In his article entitled “State of great alarm”, the journalist calls for a serious meeting of the authorities. There must be an evaluation of the state of bullfighting. Lorca proposes two explanations for the decline: the programming has been a complete failure or maybe the public really doesn’t want to hear anything about bullfighting anymore.
Interest halved in ten years
It seems that interest is waning. According to data from the Ministry of Culture, the number of bullfights organised in Spain has been reduced to almost half in the ten years before the pandemic. Down from 2,684 to 1,425 events. In the last four years of this period alone, between 2015 and 2019, one in seven spectators gave up. The arenas, which are in increasingly deteriorating condition, are now used for other cultural events. In some cases, a much cheaper solution is already being considered: permanent closure.
A negative trend that, as already noted, will not change in the coming years. It shows that there is a gap between these celebrations and the current morality of a society that tolerates exploitation and barbarity towards animals less and less.