French lawmakers to vote on bullfighting ban

French members of parliament are expected to vote for the first time on Thursday on a complete ban on bullfighting, after a national debate that has pitched animal rights defenders against fans of the traditional blood sport.

French lawmakers to vote on bullfighting ban
A woman holds a sign reading "Corrida is a crime" during a demonstration by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) animal rights group against bullfighting (or corrida) in Paris (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

Though public opinion is in favour of outlawing the practice, the bill is expected to be rejected by a majority of lawmakers who are wary about stirring up the bullfighting heartlands in the south of the country.

There is also a chance that the legislation, proposed by a vegan left-wing lawmaker, fails to be presented for a vote in the National Assembly at the last minute.

“There will not be a ban tomorrow,” President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday. “We need to go towards a conciliation, an exchange. From where I am sitting, this is not a current priority.”

His government has urged members of parliament not to support the text from the opposition France Unbowed party, even though many members of the ruling centrist and centre-right coalition are known to personally favour it.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Could bullfighting finally be banned in France?

During a first debate by lawmakers on the parliament’s law commission last week, a majority voted against the proposal by lawmaker Aymeric Caron, who denounced the “barbarism” of a tradition that was imported from Spain in the 1850s.

He called bullfighting a “hypocritical ceremony in which an animal that is supposedly honoured is massacred with a precision and refinement that is borderline sadism”.

“Caron has antagonised people instead of trying to smooth it over,” a lawmaker from Macron’s party told AFP on condition of anonymity, saying his approach had alienated many sympathetic lawmakers.

The bill proposes modifying an existing law penalising animal cruelty to remove exemptions for bullfights that can be shown to be “uninterrupted local traditions”.

These are granted in towns such as Bayonne and Mont-de-Marsan in southwest France and along the Mediterranean coast including Arles, Beziers and Nimes.

The draft law would also ban cock-fighting, which is permitted in some areas in northern France.

Spanish import?

Many bullfighting towns depend on the shows for tourism and see the culture of bull-breeding and the spectacle of the fight as part of their way of life — idolised by artists from Ernest Hemingway to Pablo Picasso.

They organised demonstrations last Saturday in southern towns, while animal rights protesters gathered in Paris — highlighting the north-south and rural-versus-Paris divide at the heart of the debate.

“Caron, in a very moralising tone, wants to explain to us, from Paris, what is good or bad in the south,” the mayor of Mont-de Marsan, Charles Dayot, told AFP recently.

Previous attempts to outlaw bullfighting have repeatedly failed, with courts routinely rejecting lawsuits lodged by animal rights activists, most recently in July 2021 in Nimes.

Even if the bill were approved in the lower house on Thursday, the draft legislation would face a struggle to pass in the conservative-dominated Senate.

The debate in France about the ethics of killing animals for entertainment is echoed in other countries with bullfighting histories, including Spain and Portugal as well as Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.

In June, a judge in Mexico City ordered an indefinite suspension of bullfighting in the capital’s historic bullring, the largest in the world.

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French MPs back €230m aid for households that use wood-burners for heating

Householders in France who heat their homes with wood-burners will soon be in line for financial help with the cost of keeping warm this winter.

French MPs back €230m aid for households that use wood-burners for heating

During a reading of the draft budget, the National Assembly adopted a €230 million aid package for households that use logs or wood pellets for heating.

The aid package – which had support across the Assembly, and the backing of the government – is modelled on an already existing policy to help the owners of properties that use oil-fired heating systems.

From December 22nd, households heating with wood will be able to apply for a “wood energy voucher” on the cheque energie website. Aid is means-tested, but those eligible will be able to claim between €50 to €200 to help with the cost of heating their homes.

The amendment was passed with 218 votes in favour and just one against.

According to the Agence de la transition écologique (Ademe), wood is the main source of heating for more than three million people in France. 

The price of wood-pellets used in household burners has doubled since the beginning of 2021, leaving many households struggling with the cost of fuel. 

Minister of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal also told MPs that the government was working on ways to reduce ‘profiteering’ from the rising cost of firewood, and said that officials would “not hesitate to crack down” on any cases of fraud.

READ ALSO What are the rules on fires and log-burners in France?