Beastly sport

Published: Monday 30 September 2002

Bullfights: activists see red< (Credit: Curt Busse)The arena in the medieval French town of Carcassonne was packed to capacity. The occasion: a bullfight after a gap of 50 years. Even as fans cheered wildly inside the stadium, animal welfare groups locked horns with the organisers outside it.'No to torture, no to bullfights' and 'Carcassonne is not a bloody city', read banners the campaigners were carrying. Earlier, a local civil court overruled the plea of animal activists seeking to put a halt to the bullfight. While torturing animals is illegal under French law, bullfights (corridas) are permitted in areas where bulls are slaughtered ritually.

Carcassonne mayor Raymond Chesa, meanwhile, defended his decision to authorise the novillada, a fight involving young bulls, on the grounds that the area had a strong Spanish immigrant tradition. "The brute force of the bull pitted against the intelligence and courage of the torero (bullfighter) is a work of art which gives me shivers, like a beautiful opera," gushed Bernard Castans, organiser of the bullfighting show. But activists argued that a capea -- a mock bullfight that gives toreros a chance to display their skills sans harming bulls -- would draw an equally large crowd.

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