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

Spain set to scrap top bullfighting prize

May 3, 2024

With dwindling interest among young people and a growing movement for animal rights, bullfighting, once thought of as an enduring part of Spanish culture, has become a hot-button topic in recent years.

A matador fights a bill in a ring, March 23, 2024
Bullfighting has declined in popularity in recent years, but in some circles is still seen as an important traditionImage: Oscar Manuel Sanchez/ZUMA Press Wire/picture alliance

Spain will scrap a top prize for bullfighting, Culture Minister Ernest Urtasun said Friday, marking a significant cultural shift in the country.

"I think that's the feeling of a majority of Spaniards who can understand less and less why animal torture is practiced ... and much less why that torture gets awarded with public money," Urtasun wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In Spanish-style bullfighting, the animal usually ends up killed by a sword wielded by a matador in shining garb.

The annual prize came with a government check of €30,000 ($32,217) and in the past has been awarded to famous bullfighters like Julian Lopez, known as "El Juli."

Bullfighting is a highly politicized issue

Bullfighting has become a politicized issue in Spain, with supporters saying it forms a part of their culture, and opponents saying it is a cruel sport.

Those opinions have been reflected in politics, pitting leftist parties like Sumar, to which Urtasun belongs, against the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP), which has vowed to reinstate the prize if it returns to power.

While the duel between a matador and a bull has passionate followers in the country, recent polls show rising disinterest, especially among young people.

According to figures from the Culture Ministry, during the 2021-22 bullfighting season, only 1.9% of Spain's population attended a bullfight. 

Spain's Animalist Party with the Environment (PACMA) called for the "total abolition" of all public support for bullfighting, saying it "cannot be justified under any circumstance."

Animal rights groups say the matador rarely succeeds in killing the bull on the first try and that, more often than not, he is forced to use more than one sword to finish the job.

Bullfighting returns to Mexico City — for now

Regions plan to launch new awards 

Borja Semper, a spokesperson for PP, told reporters the government move showed that it "does not believe in cultural diversity or liberty."

The PP leader of the Aragon region, Jorge Azcon, said he would introduce another award to replace the one being scrapped. "Tradition should be something that unites us rather than divides," he said. 

Several other regional governments also announced plans to create their own bullfighting prizes.

Opposition to bullfighting has also gained ground in other countries, including Colombia and southern France, where courts and regional governments have issued rulings to discourage the activity in recent years.

rm/nm (Reuters, AFP)