Could a New Spanish Law Declaring Pets “Living Beings” Affect the Future of Bullfighting?

Dogs, cats and other domestic animals now legally “have feelings” thanks to a new Spanish Parliament measure

A matador performs a pass
Spanish matador Gines Marin performs a pass to a bull during a bullfight.
Marcelo del Pozo/Getty

Introduced in Spanish parliament on Tuesday and backed by all parties except the far-right Vox party, a new measure that is set to pass classifies cats, dogs and other domestic animals as “living beings” that “have feelings” with regard to inheritances or custody disputes related to divorce. The measure, which will allow pet owners the right to seek compensation for “moral injury” if their animal is hurt by another person, gives judges the ability to declare joint custody of pets in divorce hearings just as they do with children after considering the welfare of the animal.

Getting the law on the books makes sense, as almost 50 percent of households in Spain have a pet and the country also has the fourth-highest rate of divorce in the European Union. Other European nations including France, Germany and Switzerland have already approved similar animal rights measures.

“We should accept that animals are not objects, they are living beings which feel and suffer,” said Sandra Guaita, a Socialist MP who presented the law to the parliament. If more Spanish citizens and lawmakers feel the same, bullfighting could be put out to pasture sooner rather than later.

Though Spain’s bullrings mostly remained empty in 2020 due to the pandemic, the sport is set to return in Madrid and the surrounding area relatively soon, as the season typically runs from spring to autumn, according to The Irish Times.

Calling bullfighting “a centuries-old tradition which is part of our identity as a people and which brings to mind the deepest human values,” Madrid region president Isabel Díaz Ayuso recently unveiled plans to jumpstart the industry, including rolling out €3 million in subsidies for Madrid’s bull breeders this year and the hosting of 18 bullfights in small towns in the coming months.

As part of the return of the sport, Las Ventas in Madrid, one of the world’s most famous bullrings, will open its doors to a maximum of 4,000 spectators on May 2nd, the Local reports.

Always a controversial topic, bullfighting has been banned in at least 100 towns in Spain as well as countries like Argentina, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Italy and the U.K. The Mexican states of Coahuila, Guerrero and Sonora have also imposed bans, per PETA.

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