Kinder form of bullfighting proposed to avoid ban

Bullfighting in Catalonia has about as good a chance of survival as a 1,000lb bull in a ring, but amid the on-going parliamentary battle over a regional corrida ban, one party is still charging hard.

The Socialists of Catalonia have come up with an odd proposal to save the controversial tradition: bullfighting that incorporates the "dignified treatment of animals".

If accepted, the proposal would mean that a supposedly kinder version of bullfighting would survive in Catalonia with limits on how long the bull can suffer in the final killing, strictly delineated sword dimensions and the prohibition of drug use. The bulls would also have more opportunities to earn the now-rare indulto, or pardon, their only ticket out of the ring alive.

"The idea is for the bullfight to involve as little suffering as possible," David Perez, a deputy with the Socialist Party of Catalonia, told reporters.

The Socialist proposal is backed by the pro-bullfighting association, Platform for the Extension of the Fiesta, which formed to counter protests by animal rights activists in the wealthy, independent-minded Spanish region.

"The spectacle has to keep evolving and adapting to people's sensibility without losing its essence," the Platform spokeswoman Sandra Salas told The Independent. She referred to the Socialist proposal as a "sweetened death" formula. The measures, she said, might include an electric charge between the eyes to put a dying bull out of its misery – as opposed to the thrust of a fine knife to deaden the nerves.

The matador would have only a limited number of attempts at the stocada de muerte, or death knell, to the back of the neck. "If after two or three times the bull doesn't fall, he won't be able to continue," Ms Salas said. "We are optimistic that, rather than an outright ban, which would deprive fans, this proposal will prosper."

But Catalonia's powerful campaigners against bullfighting called the Socialist idea "a joke", especially in the face of the 180,000 citizens who signed a petition to put the bullfighting ban on the parliamentary agenda.

The fate of bullfighting is mostly in the hands of a nationalist Catalan party, whose deputies are expected to vote for the regional ban before the summer.