Bullfighting in Spain has taken another step towards its demise after the state broadcaster cut it from its advanced schedules.
Radiotelevisió* Española (RTVE), the state radio and television network, failed for the first time yesterday to include la corrida in its budget for "obligatory programming".
The schedule, which dictates what type of programmes RTVE must spend its money on over the next nine years, will be debated in the Spanish parliament next week.
Spaniards, who deride their television by calling it "telebasura" or rubbish TV are to be treated instead to a diet of sport, magazine shows, talk shows, reality shows and competitions. There will also be more programming about women and more programmes made in other languages spoken in Spain such as Basque, Catalan and Galician. But there was conspicuously no mention of bullfighting the first programme that RTVE showed when it started in 1948.
Regional state broadcasters can show bullfighting and transmit programmes from other channels and private channels are still free to show la corrida but animal rights campaigners hailed the development as the beginning of the end for this controversial national pastime. It could see the steady demise of what has been a traditional sight in Spain, as the family gathered around the television at 5pm on a Sunday to thrill to the sight of a man in a gold-sequined suit dispatching a blood-soaked 400kg bull.
Theo Oberhuber, a co-ordinator of Ecologists in Action, which has been campaigning for a total ban, said: "This is not a total victory but it opens the door to the beginning of the end. We are very pleased."
Justine Smith, of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said: "This decision is very positive news for our campaign to end Bullfighting. It shows that the public TV station is reflecting public opinion a recent poll showed that more than 70 per cent of Spanish people have no interest in bullfighting."
But it has already met opposition from the pro-bullfighting lobby.
Luis Corrales, director of Platform for the Defence of the National Fiesta, said: "This will do nothing to reduce the popularity of bullfighting in this country and people will still be able to see los toros on the television. People in China are now watching bullfighting by satellite and love it.
"We hope that we can get this changed when it comes to parliament next week."
The pro-bullfighting lobby supported by Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian novelist recently failed in a star-studded effort to get Unesco world heritage status for the activity.
The conservative Popular Party attacked the state broadcaster's new schedule, linking it to March's general election. Ramó* Moreno, deputy leader of the Popular Party, said: "This has not been a good job. It was just to satisfy electoral interests."
In August, RTVE dropped afternoon broadcasts of los toros after it was judged too violent for an audience of children.
Prime Minister, Jos Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, is thought to disapprove of bullfighting but has never made his opinions public. However, his Environment Minister, Cristina Narbona, was more forthright when she said earlier this year that Spain should follow Portugal's example, and stage bullfights without killing the animals.
Her comments provoked immediate condemnation from bull-breeders and politicians for pandering to "Anglo-Saxon prejudices".
The popularity of bullfighting peaked in the early-1970s as prosperity grew and attending los toros was seen as a sign of wealth after years of hardship. Today some bullfighting promoters say only tourists attend las corridas and in some parts of the Spain they are facing financial ruin.
The Monumental Plaza de Toros, Barcelona's last working bullring, loses more than 28,000 each time bullfights are held due to falling attendances.