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April 25, 2011

HSI Condemns French Government’s Approval of Proposal to Safeguard Bullfighting as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Humane Society International

Humane Society International has condemned the French Ministry of Culture for approving a proposal from the bullfighting industry to get this cruel bloodsport declared a form of intangible cultural heritage under the terms of a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation Convention. If the French bid is successful, a UNESCO listing would not only give a veneer of respectability to the torture of animals for public entertainment, but would also mean that subsidies may be made available to financially safeguard the future of bullfighting.

Bullfighting is one of the abhorrent and barbaric forms of animal abuse still in existence. During the traditional Spanish-style bullfight, which is also practiced in France, bulls are first tormented and stabbed with barbed lances and banderillas (spiked wooden sticks). After this protracted ordeal, the matador is supposed to kill the bull swiftly by piercing it through a specific spot between the animal’s shoulders. However, the matador will often miss and instead damage the bull’s lungs and bronchial tubes, leading to anything other than a swift or humane death.

Says Kitty Block, HSI vice president:

“We are deeply concerned that the French government has approved this proposal to safeguard bullfighting as ‘intangible cultural heritage.' We hope that such a well-respected international body as UNESCO will recognise that it is entirely inappropriate to add a ‘cultural’ practice that causes deliberately inflicted immense suffering to defenceless animals to its intangible cultural heritage list. Bullfighting is not culture; it is torture.”

The French Ministry of Culture’s decision to approve the proposal to safeguard bullfighting as intangible cultural heritage in no way reflects the views of the majority of the French population. Indeed, in August 2010, a French opinion poll conducted by IFOP for La Lettre de l’Opinion revealed that 66 percent of those surveyed were in favour of banning bullfights. This survey was conducted following the Catalonian Parliament’s historic decision to ban bullfighting in July 2010. Furthermore, in July 2010, two politicians, Muriel Marland-Militello and Geneviève Gaillard (Socialist Party), introduced a bill to the French National Assembly, which proposed a ban on bullfighting in France.

The French bullfighting industry’s proposal to list bullfighting as intangible cultural heritage is nothing more than a cynical attempt by bullfighting supporters to resuscitate a fading commercial industry that is being abandoned by the public as they have become aware of the cruelties inflicted in the ring.

Humane Society International believes that enshrining any practice that involves the maltreatment of sentient animals as a form of intangible cultural heritage would set a dangerous precedent for UNESCO. Listing bullfighting and providing the bullfighting industry with funds to sustain this bloodsport would also be detrimental to the organisation’s credibility.


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Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the Web at hsi.org.