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France abandons bid to ban bullfighting much to chagrin of animal rights activists

Competitors in a Camargue-style fight try to pluck ribbons that decorate the head of a local cow in France. (File photo by The Washington Post)

France abandoned a bid to ban bullfighting on Thursday after a bill presented in the parliament by left-wing lawmakers to make it illegal was withdrawn much to the chagrin of animal rights activists.

The 577-seat French national assembly looked set to vote on draft legislation that would have made the traditional sport illegal. But after far-right lawmakers filed more than 500 amendments, many of them meant to obstruct the vote, the MP behind the bill withdrew it.

"I'm so sorry," Aymeric Caron, a left-wing MP and animal rights campaigner, told the national assembly as he announced the decision to withdraw the bill amid raucous and bad-tempered scenes.

Caron blamed the “parliamentary obstructions” for the decision that was made in favor of animal cruelty and an age-old tradition. He also promised for a day when the blood sport would be completely banned in the country.

"What's just happened today isn't an end... but it's just a start," he told the assembly.

Public opinion in France remains firmly in favor of outlawing the traditional practice, but the bill had already been expected to be rejected by a majority of lawmakers as they didn't want to antagonize the bullfighting heartlands in the south of the country.

"I think the majority of French people share the view that bullfights are immoral, a spectacle that no longer has its place in the 21st century,” Caron was quoted as he told the French news agency AFP earlier this year.

President Emmanuel Macron has also been against the proposed draft as his government requested members of the ruling centrist coalition not to support the text from the opposition, although many members of his party are in favor of the bill.

"We need to go towards conciliation, an exchange," Macron said on Wednesday, adding that he did not expect the draft law to pass. "From where I am sitting, this is not a current priority," he added.

According to an Ifop poll carried out by the Journal du Dimanche, nearly 75 percent of the French population support the ban on bullfighting.

Every year, around 1,000 bulls are killed in the French traditional contests each year, according to the National Observatory of Bull Cultures.

“After every stab, the bull reared. It was horrible. I didn’t understand why people had come to watch it,” said Nathalie Valentin, who once attended a bullfight and later left the place out of shock. “We are no longer in the circus era; we are in 2022”

The sport that was exported from Spain into France in the 1850s to please Emperor Napoleon III's Spanish wife Eugénie, is known as corridas and is mostly played as a local tradition in the bullfighting heartland of the southern regions.

The bulls have to bear disbelievingly bad conditions and extreme mental and physical exhaustion before they are stabbed to death in a ritualistic blood bath during a match.

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