1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Colombia moves to ban bullfighting

May 29, 2024

Colombian lawmakers voted to ban bullfighting from 2027, sending the bill to the President Gustavo Petro for signing. Animal rights groups say the sport does not represent culture, but rather torture.

A matador and a bull seen from above in the corrida Plaza Cultural la Santamaria in Bogota, Colombia
Culture, or cruel colonial relic? Colombia is set to phase out bullfighting by 2028.Image: Vanessa Gonzalez/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Colombia moved a step closer to outlawing bullfighting on Tuesday when its lower house of Congress voted 93-2 to ban the sport from 2027.

The move comes after years of lobbying from animal rights groups in various Latin American countries as well as in Portugal and Spain, where the sport originated in its modern form.

Those calling for bans have argued that bullfighting is not a cultural tradition, but rather a relic of colonialism and a cruel form of torture.

The bill will now go to President Gustavo Petro's desk, where he is expected to sign it into law.

On the social media platform X, Petro praised lawmakers for making clear that "death is not a spectacle."

Matador Diego Garcia Porras fighting a bull at the Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas, Madrid, Spain
Though its roots date back to antiquity, modern bullfighting originated in early 18th century SpainImage: Oscar Manuel Sanchez/ZUMA Press Wire/picture alliance

Animal rights activists celebrate 'huge victory'

Colombia will join Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and Uruguay when the ban goes into effect.

Despite a 2018 Constitutional Court ruling that recognized bullfighting as part of the country's cultural tradition, cities such as Bogota and Medellin put restrictions into place to outlaw the injuring of animals. The sport remains popular, however, in the cities of Cali and Manizales.

Bullfighting currently still takes place in Ecuador, France, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain and Venezuela.

Animal rights activist Terry Hurtado, who has been fighting for a ban since the 1990s, called Tuesday's vote, "a huge victory," adding, "I feel relieved that bulls and horses [which are integral to the event] in Colombia will no longer be tortured, and that children will no longer be exposed to this spectacle."

A bull charges after rejoneador [horse-mounted bullfighter] Juan Rafael Restrepo, who holds out a red flag taunting the bull at the Hacienda Vista Hermosa bullring in Villa Pinzón, Colombia
Horses also play an integral role in the choreographed spectacle of bullfightingImage: Fernando Vergara/AP Photo/picture alliance

Ancient spectacle generates millions in revenue, employs tens of thousands

Traditionally, fighting bulls are bred to be aggressive and raised on great roaming meadows — belonging to large landowners — where they have no contact with humans until they are selected to be taken to the arena.

Once in the amphitheater, the disoriented animal is taunted by numerous participants in a specifically choreographed ritual.

The final moments of the event see the tired and injured animal face to face with a sword and cape-wielding matador, whose skill is measured by the precision and swiftness with which he can sink his blade into the animal's heart through a spot between its shoulder blades.

The dispatched animals are then sold to local butcher shops and restaurants for consumption.

The International Humane Society, an animal rights group, estimates that globally roughly 180,000 bulls are killed in bullfights each year. By comparison, an estimated 1.5 billion cows are slaughtered by the meat industry during that same time.

Those arguing against bans say they curb freedoms as well as harming not only employees involved in the industry, but also cities that will lose access to revenue spent by the millions of patrons who visit bullfights each year.

Colombia will now be responsible for finding alternative employment for the tens of thousands of individuals who work directly or indirectly in the bullfighting sector, as well as finding alternative uses for the country's arenas.

Bullfighting returns to Mexico City — for now

js/msh (AFP, AP)