VALENCIA — Supporters of traditional bullfighting are seeing red in Spain, with tens of thousands taking to the streets this week in Valencia to protest cuts to government subsidies for the controversial sport.
Attendees chanted "liberty" as they gathered in front of the local city hall, with the march culminating at the nearby Plaza de Toros, home to Valencia's main bullring, the local daily Levante-EMV reports. The march on Monday drew many more people than expected, with an estimated 30,000 taking part. Animal rights activists staged a smaller counter-protest later in the day, with around 300 attendees.
The pro-bullfighting activists came from all walks of Valencian life and included several well-known Spanish bullfighters, including local hero Enrique Ponce. "Who loves bulls more than we do? Bullfighting is protected by the constitution and promotes social and human values," he said.
Bullfighting has only been banned in one Spanish region — Catalonia — but the issue is increasingly culturally divisive across the country, with passions flaring on both sides of the debate.
The latest demonstration took place on the third day of the Fallas, the city's yearly traditional festival in commemoration of St. Joseph. According to Levante, Valencia Mayor Joan Ribó responded to the march by proposing to keep the sport alive but prohibit the public slaughter of the bull at the end of the bullfight.
The mayor's proposal follows what's commonly known as the "Portuguese solution" — a reference to Portugal's efforts to preserve the Iberian bullfighting tradition that some consider more humane. In Portugal, the bulls are released from the ring alive after the fight and then either slaughtered away from public view or released to a farm to breed.