The Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) had filed a case against bullfight organiser Lea Vicens and the southwestern city of Nimes, a bullfighting hotspot, saying the practice was “shocking and barbaric”.
But the court in Nimes, following several previous rejections by courts of complaints filed by SPA, threw out its case and ordered it to pay €4,000 in legal costs.
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Generally thought of as a Spanish tradition, bullfighting is also widespread in south west France, although it has declined in popularity in recent years.
Held in a sand area, the event involves a bull and a person – known as torero or torera – who tries to wound, immobilise or kill the animal which is subjected to attacks with lances, barbed darts and swords during the contest.
France has strict laws against animal cruelty but bullfighting – which kills an estimated 1,000 bulls per year in the country – is exempt in places where it has been practised for a long time.
Trying to win over public opinion for a change in the law, the SPA has brought several cases in cities where bullfighting is popular, including Dax, Carcassonne, Bayonne and Bèziers, so far without success.
In its verdict in May, a court in Bèziers acknowledged that the injuries deliberately inflicted on bulls caused them “great suffering”, and should be qualified as “cruelty”.
But it said animal cruelty laws did not apply to bullfighting “so long as there is proof of an uninterrupted local tradition” as per France’s criminal code.