You hardly need be a passionate animal rights advocate to reject bullfighting. In this supposed duel between man and beast, the 'corrida', the bull never has a chance. It's tortured in a bestial, meaningless manner, until the matador puts it out of its misery with a reasonably adept stroke of his blade.
The long-standing rumors persist that the animals are either manipulated with medication or have their horns filed down, as organizers try to limit the risks for the matadors.
It would be cynical to describe this spectacle as a quintessential piece of Spanish culture. Bullfighting, in its current form, has only been around since the end of the eighteenth century. While breeders and matadors say they honor the animals and secure the breed's continued survival, it's hard to overlook their personal motives – at the end of the day, a bullfighting ban puts them out of a job.
In this sense, the Catalan government has made the correct decision, banning bullfighting from 2012 on. But still, it leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. If you look closely at the result of the vote, you see that members of the nationalist Catalan party voted overwhelmingly in favor of the ban.
That makes it less of a vote against bullfighting, and more of a vote against Spain; the local politicians decided not to include a ban on the Catalan tradition of bull running, or 'correbous', in the legislation. Bulls are very rarely killed in these bull runs, but neither are they treated humanely.
This bullfighting ban can be clearly interpreted as a regional response to a recent Spanish constitutional court verdict limiting the autonomy of the Catalan regional government.
What's more, the lofty, passionate debates on a bullfighting ban were totally over the top: La Monumental - the last major arena in Barcelona with a capacity of 20,000 - only sold 400 season tickets this year, and it's rarely full nowadays. In 2009, only 18 'corridas' took place there, clearly signaling that most people are no longer interested in the bloody spectacle. For this reason, a complete ban was just the next logical step.
Marc Koch is Deutsche Welle's editor-in-chief. (msh)
Editor: Rob Turner