Bullfights: Should they be added to UNESCO’s list of world treasures?

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:57 pm -

Bullfights. Should they be added to UNESCO’s list of world treasures? Many people in Spain think the tradition should be included. After all, it’s a seminal part of the country’s history. Now, The French Ministry of Culture is backing the proposal and the International Humane Society is up in arms.

Kitty Block, vice president of the organization stated, “We are deeply concerned the French government has approved this proposal. We hope UNESCO, a well-respected international organization will recognize it’s  inappropriate to classify bullfights as a ‘cultural’ practice. Bullfighting is not culture. It is torture that deliberately causes immense suffering to defenseless animals.” Two thousand bullfights take place each year. More than 11,000 bulls are killed in official bullfights. The real number is closer to three times that statistic.

Bullfighting traces its origins to 711 A.D., when the first bullfight took place in Spain at the coronation of King Alfonso VIII. It’s estimated one million people watch bullfights annually in Spain. Spain isn’t the only country where this takes place. It’s still practiced in a few South American countries, Mexico and Nîmes in Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The ring in Nîmes is a magnificent Roman amphitheater and very much worth visiting. But in my opinion, not at the end of Easter, when a million people crowd into it to watch the five-day-long bullfights.

Pedro Ortiz, a former Spanish politician and radio commentator said, “The debate about bullfights has been going on for years.” He finds it ironic the French are taking a position. Many others agree.

A key question is whether or not UNESCO should be designating things such as this as a part of the world’s cultural heritage? One of the benefits of such a classification is that it attracts people from all over the world and drives tourism big time.

As a Francophile and a Paris resident, I’m all for French food being fair game and clearly a national treasure. For many, it’s a passion. But, should helpless animals be included on the UNESCO list? What do you think?

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

Photo: Bullfight Pamplona, Spain ©Leocha

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