Colombia Moves to Ban Bullfighting After Decade-Long Struggle

Colombia’s House of Representatives approves a bill to ban bullfighting, marking a significant victory for animal rights advocates and signaling a cultural shift towards nonviolent entertainment.

In a historic decision, the Colombian House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday to ban bullfighting throughout the country. The legislation passed with an overwhelming majority of 93 votes in favor and only two against, following years of heated debate and numerous delays. The bill’s passage marks a pivotal moment in Colombia’s legislative history and highlights the country’s evolving stance on animal rights and cultural practices.

The announcement of the bill’s approval was made via the House of Representatives’ official social media account, stating, “The bill prohibiting bullfighting in Colombia has just been approved in its final debate in the plenary session of the House, with 93 votes in favor and two votes against.” The bill will now be reconciled due to differences in the texts approved by the Senate and the House before it can be presented for presidential sanction.

Legislative Triumph and Celebration

The legislative session was marked by triumphant shouts of “No more bullfighting, no more bullfighting, no more bullfighting” from the congress members who championed the bill. The law bans bullfighting and outlaws other related practices such as rejoined (a form of bullfighting on horseback) and novilladas (bullfights involving young bulls).

Senator Esmeralda Hernández, a key advocate for the bill from the ruling Pacto Histórico party, expressed her joy on social media. “It’s now a law of the republic! We did it; bullfighting ends in Colombia. This is one of the happiest days of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, thanks to those who paved the way, thanks to Congress, thanks to life,” Hernández wrote.

Hernández further explained that the law will implement a three-year transition period. “The prohibition will not be immediate. We will identify families who depend on the bullfighting sector and establish an inter-institutional committee to assist in their transition, allowing them to shift towards commerce or tourism,” she said. The transformation of bullrings into cultural, musical, and multi-use spaces is also part of the law’s broader vision.

Presidential Support

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, a long-time opponent of bullfighting, applauded the bill’s passage. “Congratulations to those who finally achieved the end of this spectacle of death,” Petro stated. He drew a stark comparison between those who enjoy animal cruelty and broader societal violence, adding, “Those who find entertainment in the death of animals will eventually find entertainment in human death, just as those who burn books will end up burning people.” Petro’s opposition to bullfighting dates back to his tenure as mayor of Bogotá in 2012, when he banned bullfighting in the city’s iconic La Santamaría bullring.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Juan Carlos Losada, a representative from Bogotá with the Liberal Party, was visibly emotional as the bill passed. “This has been a ten-year struggle,” Losada said, tearfully acknowledging the journey. “Today, our country declares that there is no form of torture that can be considered culture. Colombia sets an example for the entire world by becoming a less violent and more civilized society,” he added.

Bullfighting has long been a contentious issue in Colombia. Although it has deep historical roots and has been a traditional spectacle, public opinion has increasingly shifted against it. The sport’s popularity has waned over the years, now confined primarily to a few remaining bullrings in Bogotá, Cali, and Manizales, with Manizales holding the most significant following.

Latin American Context

The move to ban bullfighting in Colombia is part of a broader trend seen across Latin America. Countries like Mexico, Peru, and Spain, where bullfighting has historically been popular, are also grappling with growing opposition from animal rights activists and changing public sentiments. In Mexico, for example, several states have enacted bans on bullfighting, and there are ongoing efforts to implement a national prohibition. Similarly, regions like Catalonia have banned the practice in Spain, reflecting a significant cultural shift.

In Ecuador, bullfighting was banned in the capital, Quito, following a public referendum in 2011. This decision highlighted the power of public opinion in shaping cultural practices. Other countries in the region, including Argentina and Uruguay, have also taken steps to restrict or outright ban bullfighting, signaling a regional move towards more humane treatment of animals.

Bullfighting in Colombia dates back to the Spanish colonial period when conquistadors brought bullfighting to Colombia in the 16th century. It symbolized Spanish cultural influence and was integrated into Colombian festivals and celebrations. The practice was prevalent in regions like Bogotá, Cali, and Manizales, where bullrings became iconic cultural landmarks.

However, the spectacle has always been met with controversy and opposition. Over the past few decades, animal rights organizations and social movements have increasingly condemned bullfighting as barbaric and inhumane. The shift in public opinion has been fueled by growing awareness of animal welfare and changing societal values prioritizing empathy and compassion over traditional but violent entertainment.

Transition and Future Prospects

The transition from bullfighting poses economic and cultural challenges, particularly for those whose livelihoods depend on the industry. As outlined in the new law, the Colombian government’s approach emphasizes a gradual transition and support for affected families. By establishing an inter-institutional committee, the government aims to provide alternative economic opportunities in sectors like commerce and tourism.

Transforming bullrings into cultural venues offers a path forward that honors historical structures while repurposing them for contemporary uses. This adaptive reuse can help preserve the architectural heritage of bullfighting while creating spaces for diverse cultural activities.

The new law bans bullfighting and represents a broader cultural shift towards nonviolent forms of entertainment and respect for animal rights. It is a testament to the changing values in Colombian society and a commitment to evolving towards a more humane and compassionate future.

Colombia’s legislative decision to ban bullfighting marks a significant milestone in the country’s cultural evolution. It reflects the growing recognition that traditions involving violence and cruelty have no place in a modern, civilized society. The bill’s passage is a victory for animal rights advocates and a powerful statement about the values that Colombia wishes to embody.

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As the country navigates the transition away from bullfighting, it can redefine its cultural identity in a way that honors its history and its commitment to progress. The world will watch as Colombia leads by example, demonstrating true cultural richness lies in compassion, empathy, and respect for all living beings.

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