Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Matadors slay bulls for last time in Catalonia


Thousands of spectators watch Spanish bullfighter Julian Lopez, center, make a pass during the penultimate bullfighting day at the Monumental Bullring in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday.

Photo: EPA

Spain’s finest matadors were to slay their prey in Catalonia’s historic last bullfight yesterday, a spectacle that was to be played out before 18,000 fans in a sold-out Barcelona arena.

The unequal duel between man and beast on the sands of the -century-old Monumental Bullring was to be the final combat before a permanent ban takes effect in the northeastern region from next year.

A relief to animal rights activists, the ban is a bitter blow to bullfighting enthusiasts.

Three matadors were to spar with a total six bulls — two each — before putting the half-tonne, sharp-horned animals to the sword.

In the Spanish tradition, a picador riding a heavily shielded horse lances the bull behind the neck to make it drop the head slightly. Then, three banderillas try to plant sharp, barbed sticks into its shoulders. Finally, the matador induces the bull with his cape to make a series of stylized passes in a display of art and bravura, tiring the animal before plunging a steel sword deep between its shoulders for the final kill.

The first matador to step into the ring was to be 38-year-old Juan Mora, then the legendary 36-year-old Jose Tomas and last the 28-year-old Catalan Serafin Marin, a fierce defender of the Spanish tradition.

In two rounds the trio were to put to death all six of the beasts bred for battle by the El Pilar de Salamanque ranch.

Catalan regional members of parliament voted in July last year to ban bullfighting as of Jan. 1 next year after animal rights groups managed to gather 180,000 signatures for a petition demanding the debate.

“I feel bad about it, sad. They take away all your past and part of your future,” Marin said.

The matador said he agreed with critics who say the ban is not so much a victory for animal rights as a way for independence-minded Catalans to thumb their noses at the rest of Spain.

He pointed out that other -festivals, including one in which flaming torches are attached to the horns of a bull that is then pursued through the streets, will survive the new regime.

“We have won a battle, but not the war. We will continue to work for animal rights in Spain, Catalonia and elsewhere,” said Helena Escoda, member of the rights group Prou, Catalan for “enough,” which fought for the ban.

Though the bullfight goes back to the 16th century in Catalonia, it is losing interest in the region and in the rest of Spain. In a 2008 survey, only 22.5 percent of Catalans questioned said they were interested in the tradition. Barcelona’s Monumental arena only hosted 18 fights in the whole of last year.

However, fans of bullfighting have not given up hope: They hope to find 500,000 backers to present their own petition to the national parliament and classify the combat as a cultural asset. If they can do so by the end of this year, bullfighting fans believe they can stop the ban taking effect.

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