The Spanish Left Fighting Animal Cruelty

The rise of SYRIZA in Greece has been widely reported by the media and parallels are often given with how Spain’s austerity programme could come to a grinding halt if the left-wing populist party Podemos are elected in the Spanish general election in December. Opinion polling currently suggests that Podemos’ support is relatively steady at around 20%, which is five points lower than the high point of last November, thus putting Podemos in not-so-distant third place and enabling the party to have significant influence on Spanish politics after the election. Considering Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right People’s Party are at around 27% and the traditional centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) are around 25%, it is very possible that Podemos could the junior partner in a left-of-centre coalition, unless the PSOE commit electoral suicide by entering into a grand coalition with the People’s Party.
Media commentators are right to point to Podemos as another popular left-wing force like SYRIZA that could challenge the austerity agenda of the Troika, especially as Greek PM Alexis Tsipras has stood alongside Podemos Leader Pablo Iglesias at campaign rallies. However, despite being a number of moths away from the general election a number of left-wing parties, including Podemos, are already implementing policies to prevent animal cruelty all over Spain.

Worse case scenario, Tsipras and Iglesias could use their image to become cool drama teachers.
Worse case scenario, Tsipras and Iglesias could use their image to become cool art teachers. (The Guardian)
Starting off with Podemos, although they are not running the government of any particular region single-handedly, the elections to regional parliaments in May 2015 saw Podemos grow in strength and as a result there have been many instances of bullfighting events being cancelled with political discussions taking place was whether referenda should be held to ban the practice.
In the Madrid City Council Podemos worked with other smaller left-wing parties in an electoral coalition called Ahora Madrid; because the parties worked together the coalition went from zero seats to twenty, giving it only one fewer than the People’s Party. But this radical left-wing group didn’t fail to achieve power; a majority on the City Council requires 29 seats and, after reaching out to the PSOE who won nine seats, the Leader of Ahora Madrid, Manuela Carmena became the new Mayor. In this traditionalist city, Carmena declared that “not one Euro of public money” will be spent on bullfighting.
To a lesser extent Podemos’ increase in influence was also felt in the provincial government of Castilla-La Mancha with the party’s 2 seats giving the PSOE the assistance it required to remove People’s Party from government; the left-wing coalition cancelled a bullfighting festival in Villafranca de los Caballeros with €18,000 saved being spent on textbooks for local schools.
Podemos also worked in an electoral coalition in Zaragoza as a part of the Zaragaza en Común group under the leadership of former university professor Pedro Santisteve Roche; together with the PSOE and the Aragonese nationalists of Chunta Aragonesista the local government of Zaragoza withheld public money from the Toros Embolados festival which involves attaching firecrackers to the horns of bulls.
I think this matador is beginning to realise that making a bull angry for no apparent reason might not be the best idea. And yes that is blood on the horns.
I think this matador is beginning to realise that making a bull angry for no apparent reason might not be the best idea. And yes that is blood on the horns. (CNN)
Joan Ríbo, the new Compromís mayor of Valencia, has declared that his new administration will actively oppose city funds going towards events that involve the killing of bulls. Ríbo is also aware that he has the support of the Valencian Parliament which is run by the PSOE’s Valencian regional branch along with Compromís and Podemos in supporting roles.
However the fulcrum of recent left-wing opposition to bullfighting has been the province of Alicante. In the 2015 municipal elections the Valencian nationalists and eco-socialists of Compromís picked up 167 seats out of the 1681 on offer, and the United Left coalition of communists, socialists and environmentalists, also picked up 78 seats; when added to the PSOE’s 508 seats, the three groups easily overpower the People’s Party’s 635 seats.
Through pressure from the leftist-run municipal government the towns of Gandia, which is locally run by the PSOE, Denia, which is led by the People’s Party, have both cancelled bullfighting on grounds of animal abuse and both will have referenda on whether to ban the practice outright. In the city of Alicante itself the PSOE is also supported by leftists Compromís and Guanyar Alacant, as well as the more progressive elements of the centrist party Ciudadanos.
The Spanish general election in December shall prove to be a very interesting set of results as at a national level the support of smaller regional parties of the left seem to be uniting behind Podemos, with some exceptions that also champion regional separatism like the Republican Left of Catalonia. As long as Podemos’ poll numbers stay at around 20% they, in partnership with the PSOE, will be able to institute real left-wing policies for Spain.
I get the impression that if Podemos fails as a political movement it could always sell the logo to a recruitment company.
I get the impression that if Podemos fails as a political movement it could always sell the logo to a recruitment company. (Podemos)
With the kind of grassroots leftist movement that is being built in Spain, which has already brought about significant electoral and policy change, I am confident that in the next five years the scourge of bullfighting shall be finally removed from mainstream Spanish culture. With this barbaric practice outlawed Spain shall continue to remove vestiges of its imperialist and fascist past, creating a new progressive society that improves the lives of people and animals alike.
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7 thoughts on “The Spanish Left Fighting Animal Cruelty

  1. I thought that opposition to bullfighting was tactically separatist, rather than ‘leftist’. Catalonia has only banned it because the rest of Spain so far hasn’t.

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    • I would contest that the ‘only’ reason that Catalonia banned it was because the rest of Spain hasn’t because if the same rationale was applied the rest of Spain banning it would result in Catalonia re-legalizing it. The reason I would argue that opposition to bullfighting has largely, not exclusively, come from left-wing voices is because the same focus on national traditions doesn’t exist in the same way as on the right; on the Left we venerate more abstract ideas like a history of anti-fascism and support for women’s rights rather than killing animals for no reason other than society having previously done it. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a position that is the preserve of the Left but in recent years I don’t believe it is surprising that Catalonia, the region with a long tradition of left-wing hostility to Madrid governments since the Spanish Civil War, was one of the first areas to ban the practice.

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      • We’ll see, but there are no moves to ban bullfighting in Roussillon (French Catalonia). I view the Catalan separatists tactics rather like that of the SNP, whom I may have some respect for when they change the law on fox hunting to line up with how it presently is in England & Wales. Most left-wingers I have met have no interest in animal rights except paying lip-service as it fits into a general ‘anti-conservative’ package.

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      • I personally can’t speak for the entire Left and there’s bound to be a couple of people that like hunting considering the number of people on Left worldwide. I’m actually in the process of writing about a hypothetical independent Catalonia and, although the comparison with SNP is inviting, it would be inaccurate as there is a broad ideological range of parties supporting independence (the most popular party is a liberal conservative party). The Socialist Party controls the local government of Pyrénées-Orientales which I don’t believe has banning bullfighting in its platform, but I would guess that this is because bullfighting is a regional issue so wouldn’t be put in a national manifesto; I personally don’t think the Socialist Party is left-wing enough so I’m not attempting to be an apologist. On your point about lip service I would agree that centre-left parties, in attempting to appeal to the centre-ground as well as urban and rural voters, often avoid controversial topics. Although I’m not sure if it’s in the Front de Gauche’s platform, I would think it more likely that they would talk about it; failing that there are a large number of animal rights groups that identify as part of the Green movement, which in many countries is a part of the Left.

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