British animal lovers may be horrified to discover that their taxes are going to subsidise bullfighting.
Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which subsidises farmers across the EU, UK taxpayers are forking out £13.5 million to help support Spanish farmers breeding bulls for the arena.
Some MPs are calling on prime minister David Cameron to refuse to pay, and Labour's Sir Alan Meale has tabled a Commons motion describing bullfighting as "abhorrent", involving torturing animals as a public display. He points out that the practice contravenes the UK's Animal Welfare Act 2006 - and even the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept For Farming Purposes.
The motion calls for the government to stop making the payments immediately.
"It is bizarre we are even contemplating paying this," says Sir Alan. Bullfighting is the last thing in the world we should be subsidising."
The League Against Cruel Sports has campaigned long and hard against bullfighting, including attempting to stop the EU subsidies.
"Currently, bull breeders receive £110 million a year through 'common agriculture payments'," it says. "£13.5 million comes from the UK alone. It has been estimated that through all sources the bullfighting industry receives approximately 550 million Euros each year."
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Indeed, a recent EU report concluded that bullfighting would probably die out without this financial support.
"I cannot support Scottish taxpayers' money going towards the rearing of bulls only for them to be slaughtered in the bullring. Using your land to further cruel pursuits is not a right enshrined in the CAP," says Conservative MEP for Scotland Ian Duncan.
"Further, the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes states that animals should not suffer pain, injury, fear or distress."
But while animal lovers want to curb the practice, the Spanish government wants to safeguard it. It is currently working to protect bullfighting as an intangible cultural heritage, sidestepping animal cruelty laws. And a recent amendment aimed at prohibiting the use of European funds to support bull breeders was rejected by the European Parliament after failing to receive a big enough majority.
There's little doubt that bullfighting does cause the animals pain, injury, fear and distress. Bulls are attacked with weapons like lances and barbed harpoons before eventually being killed with a sword.
"Further cruelty takes place away from the gaze of the general public. Bulls are often weakened and disorientated prior to a fight. Many start out being starved for days, being drugged, or by having Vaseline smeared in their eyes to impair their vision," says the League Against Cruel Sports.
"A bull's horns may also be shaved before a fight, and the nerve endings in their horns are extremely sensitive. The shaving is often likened to someone having extreme dental treatment with no anaesthetic."
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