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Mounting support calling for the Catalonian Parliament to abolish bullfighting

July 23, 2010

Barcelona, Spain - A week before the Catalonian Parliament votes on whether to end bullfighting in Catalonia, national and international support calling for the abolition of bullfighting is intensifying.

A joint letter addressed to Mr. Ernest Benach, President of the Catalonian Parliament, Nobel Prize laureate John M. Coetzee, and Professor Emeritus Priscilla Cohn, widow of the Catalonian philosopher Ferrater Mora, urged the MPs to approve the initiative organized by the PROU ( and abolish bullfighting.

Responding to the argument of bullfighting lobbyists that an abolition of bullfighting would be an attack on individual liberties, Coetzee and Cohn stated that “neither in respect of morality nor in the eyes of the law does individual liberty mean that we are individually free to treat other living beings – whether human or non-human – as we please.”

Also, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) has addressed a letter to the Parliament of Catalonia urging the institution to disregard suggestions that the fighting bull might not suffer significantly during a bullfight.

Among the signatories of the HSVMA letter are renowned veterinarians including Dr. Jim Reynolds and Dr. Peggy Larson. As former chair of the Association of Bovine Practitioners Animal Welfare Committee, Dr. Reynolds consults regularly on international bovine projects. Dr. Peggy Larson has served as a veterinary medical officer with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and has participated in animal welfare inspections, including the use of bulls for entertainment.

In the closing quote of the letter, the experts state that “fighting bulls, like other bovines, feel pain and suffer in the bull ring” and that this “opinion is based on the irrefutable science of anatomy, physiology and neurology governing the pain receptors in the skin and muscle of bovines”.

The HSVMA - along with the prominent veterinarians and animal ethicists who are co-signers of the letter - are now the fourth group of veterinary experts that have made a public statement against bullfighting. The Spanish Association of Veterinarians for the Abolition of Tauromachy (AVAT), the French Collective of Veterinarians Opposed to the Corrida, and the Faculty of Biological Sciences of the University of Valencia have urged governments to abolish bullfighting on the grounds that this practice is unacceptably cruel.

Media Contacts:
PROU: Alejandra García, tel. +34 607.264.849, email:

WSPA: Laura Flannery, U.S. Communications Manager, tel. 617.896.9291, email:

Notes to editors:

1. John M. Coetzee, born in South Africa and now living in Australia, won the Booker Prize in 1983 and 1999, and was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature. Through his writing, he has consistently sought to condemn racism and human rights violations. Mr. Coetzee is the second Nobel laureate to take a public stand in favor of abolishing bullfights in Catalonia – the first being the Dalai Lama who made his position public last May.

2. Priscilla Cohn, widow of the Catalonian philosopher José Ferrater Mora, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Pennsylvania State University (USA) and Associate Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.

3. Copies of the letters of Mr. Coetzee and the HSVMA are available upon media request.

4. The Parliament of Catalonia is expected to vote on a legislative proposal to ban bullfighting in this Northeastern region of Spain next July 28th. Dr. Illera, a veterinarian from Madrid, recently spoke at the Catalonian Parliament on behalf of the bullfighting lobby, making some statements that could suggest that the bulls do not suffer during the bullfight. Citing published references of the scientific literature, the HSVMA veterinarians and animal behavior experts point out “that the evidence that cattle are capable of experiencing pain and suffering is overwhelming”. The HSVMA warns that “the claim that pain perception can be bred out of a line of animals is a very serious assertion, since a false claim would undoubtedly lead to substantial animal suffering.” The letter further points out that “the work of Dr. Illera and others questioning pain during bullfights has yet to be published in a respected International Journal … (and) is not substantial enough to serve as a basis for any parliamentary decision regarding bullfights”.

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