VALENCIA'S mayor Joan Ribó is questioning whether 'Portuguese-style' bullfights would solve the impasse between the pro-bull and anti-bull brigades – a spectacle where the animal is not tortured or killed.
Whilst those who want to see bull-fighting abolished say there is no place in 21st-century society for any form of entertainment which involves killing animals or harming them physically or psychologically, those who want to keep it going say it provides jobs, helps the economy and ensures conservation of coastal marshland set aside for bulls to graze.
They also speak of 'culture', 'tradition' and 'freedom of artistic expression', saying spectators go to bullfights to watch the 'skill and courage' of the matador.
Animal protection societies say that to attack a frightened animal who is merely trying to escape harm is not an act of courage.
But in Portugal, where bullfights still take place, the animal is not harmed or killed and the events are more akin to rodeo shows in México and the USA where the ranch-handler's skills, rather like those of a sheepdog, are the main focus.
“It would be a good idea for Spain to come to an agreement that meant bulls did not get killed or harmed in the ring,” said Ribó, who represents the left-wing regional party Compromís.
A huge demonstration involving at least 30,000 pro-bullfight protesters filled Valencia's bullring on Sunday and gathered outside it, whilst dozens of animal support groups, with the help of falleras wearing just their hairpieces and red paint to signify blood but with banners covering their modesty, staged a counter-protest against the bullfights due to take place over this week.
Bullfights traditionally take place during Valencia's massive March Fallas festival, and in over half of all towns in the three provinces of Valencia, Castellón and Alicante, which make up the Comunidad Valenciana, events with bulls take place during summer fiestas.
Bulls do not get killed at any of these – which include bull-runs through the streets, bulls chased into the sea from a port-side ring by spectators, and bulls set loose with lighted torches attached to their horns; or bous al carrer, bous a la mar and bous embolats respectively – but animal protection groups are still keen for them to be scrapped as the animals suffer psychologically, and are placed in unnecessary physical danger.
Many town councils in the region have put the issue out to referendum, which has led to their being stopped in some areas and funding for them scrapped in others.