- The Bayonne Criminal Court, seized after a complaint from the SPA, believes that the city of Bayonne can continue to organize bullfights.
- The SPA points to a change in opinion, unfavorable to bullfighting, but the court has asserted an ancient tradition of this practice in the Basque city.
- Other legal actions have been launched against other towns with a bullfighting tradition by the animal protection association.
It is a victory for the defenders of bullfighting. Justice, seized by the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) as part of a legal offensive against towns with a bullfighting tradition, on Tuesday authorized Bayonne to continue to organize bullfights.
The SPA had summoned to appear the torero Jean-Baptiste Jalabert known as “Juan Bautista” as the main author, and the city of Bayonne and the manager of the arenas, as accomplices, of “serious abuse and acts of cruelty towards a animal ”. She claimed 10,000 euros in damages for moral prejudice.
The city, the arenas and the bullfighter had, at the hearing in September, invoked the Penal Code which punishes the abuse against animals in captivity but “excludes the application of these provisions to bull races”, for cases “where an uninterrupted local tradition can be invoked ”. The SPA had pleaded that “in France, more than 70% of those questioned are against bullfighting (and that) the observation of a change in opinion must be taken into account”.
The strength of tradition recognized by the court
In its deliberation, the Bayonne Criminal Court recalls “that it is up to the judge to obey the law even if the ethics, morals or the sensitivity of a part of the population or his own incline him to the opposite ”.
However, continue the judges, “it is clear that in the arenas of the Bayonnaise locality, the regular holding of bull races dates back to a very old time and has never been interrupted except during the world wars, if not in this year 2020 because of the health crisis ”.
“To consider the opinion of the majority so as not to recognize the evidence in Bayonne of the liveliness of the bullfighting tradition and the frequentation of arenas during bull races, would be contrary to article 7 of article 521-1 of the Criminal Code, ”the court concluded.
This decision, reacted Me Philippe Moriceau, lawyer of the city, means that Bayonne “can continue to organize bullfights”. “It comes from a spirit, a strong local tradition and it doesn’t matter if there are maybe less people interested in this tradition.”
The Bayonnaise procedure was the first in a series of similar actions launched by the SPA at the end of 2019 and also targeting Dax, Carcassonne, Nîmes or Béziers. The idea of this offensive, after a previous one in 2017, is “that by dint of talking about it, we will end up having the ear of the legislator”, to “change the law” and “obtain the abolition” bullfighting, explains the SPA. The association’s lawyer, absent from the deliberations, could not be reached on Tuesday afternoon.