A PRO-BULLFIGHTING protest gathered over 30,000 people on the streets of Valencia at the same time as an anti-bullfight demonstration brought several dozen others to the same venue today.
The march finished at the iconic bullring, next to the highly-decorative main North Station, where Valencian matador Enrique Ponce read out a manifesto.
Earlier, 12,000 people had filled the same bullring calling for bullfighters to be allowed to practise unhindered.
This was just before one of the traditional bullfights which take place during Valencia's huge March fiestas, the Fallas, now almost in full swing ahead of the main events between Wednesday and Saturday this week.
The protesters claimed bullfights, bull-running and other, similar 'sports' were a 'tool' which was vital to the economy and to providing a financial boost to 'numerous towns and cities', which 'promoted human and social rights' and was a 'fundamental and principal support system' for Spain's biodiversity, given that over half a million hectares of coastal marshland are 'kept maintained and in good conditions' because of being needed for bulls to graze.
As well as the economic and environmental aspects, the pro-bullfighting brigade said it was a 'deep-rooted tradition'.
They appealed to the 'right to freedom of speech, thought and artistic expression' and to 'equality in the arts'.
Meanwhile, female fiesta participants – known as falleras – and their male counterparts, the falleros stripped off most of their clothes, wearing only the trademark accessories such as rolled plaited hairpieces, clips and jewellery, and coated their bodies in red paint to depict the blood shed by bulls who die in the name of entertainment.
Their manifesto said they were there to 'be the voice' of the 100 or so bulls who die every year in Fallas, and which cost over €500 million a year in taxpayers' funds.
In fact, many town and city councils have chosen to axe funding for bull-related events – as opposed to banning them altogether – since they do not think it fair how those who are against animal treatment have to fund it.
“Torture is not art,” said Carmen Moll, leader of the animal protection campaign group AnimaNaturalis.
Moll said she thought there were now far more people in Spain who were against bull-fighting and bull-running than those who wanted to see it continue, but that 'people are often reluctant' to take to the streets.
“More and more people come along to AnimaNaturalis' protests – this year in Fallas there have been more than ever.”
No major confrontations broke out between the two opposing protest groups, although some of the pro-bullfighting gang jeered at the half-naked, red-painted falleras and shouted, “Bet you catch a cold.”
One of the activists said she was 'an animal-lover' and thought it was 'shameful' how bulls were mistreated.
“Part of our society still lives in the Stone Age,” she lamented.
“It's perfectly possible to organise a great Fallas fiesta without needing to kill or torture any animals.”