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Home » Majority of people in European bullfighting countries against the harmful tradition

Majority of people in European bullfighting countries against the harmful tradition


The majority of people in Spain, France and Portugal is against bullfighting and think the harmful tradition causes too much suffering to bulls, a survey shows. The survey among 7500 people carried out by Ipsos I&O Public on behalf of the Dutch animal protection Ngo CAS International shows furthermore that a great majority of the inhabitants of the three European countries where bullfighting still takes place think that public money should not be spent to support bullfighting and that the European Union should protect the welfare of animals within cultural traditions.  

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Majority of people in European bullfighting countries against the harmful tradition | Picture: CAS/AnimaNaturalis

Spain, France and Portugal are the European countries that still allow bullfighting, including different patronal festivities with bulls and cows (in Spain 18,000 annually). Every year thousands of bulls are mistreated and die a slow and painful death in arenas before the eyes of people. The public support for bullfighting in all of the bullfighting countries decreases over time and arenas become more empty. Maite van Gerwen, director of CAS International:

“It is clear that more and more people are becoming aware of the violence inflicted on bulls and people do not accept this anymore.”

Too much animal suffering

The representative survey carried out among 2500 people in each of the three countries confirms this. A majority of 77% of the respondents agree that bullfighting causes too much suffering to bulls, only 11% finds it an enjoyable practice and 58% even favours a ban on bullfighting. Only one in every five persons thinks that bullfighting is a valuable tradition that should have a place in society.  

Rights of children 

Besides animal suffering, another aspect that comes with bullfighting is violence to children. In 2014 the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations asked countries to keep away children under the age of 18 away from bullfighting, but this has not been brought into practice by the countries. Only Portugal has a minimum age of 12 years for attending bullfights. In the survey carried out, the majority (65%) of participants agreed that children under 18 years of age should be prohibited from attending bullfights.  


European subsidies

It is already known and criticized since many years that the breeding of bulls intended for bullfighting is supported with European tax money in the form of agricultural subsidies, around 200 million euros each year. Also, national subsidies in the three countries are used to support the tradition in different forms. Participants (67%) of the survey do not agree with spending national or EU subsidies to support bullfighting. The European Union leaves the protection of animals that are used in cultural, traditional and religious events up to the responsibility of the member states and so far the European Commission has not proposed legislation to protect the welfare of these animals. However, respondents of the survey are clear in their opinions. A majority of 74% agrees that the European Unions should protect the welfare of animals in cultural traditions.  

Political preference

The critical opinion about bullfighting that is shown by the survey is not limited to ‘left voters’. In the survey participants were asked what party they voted for during the last national elections in their country and it turned that for the statements about animal suffering and EU responsibilities the majority of voters of all political parties agreed with the statement. Also, for other statements both left and right and central voters shared their critical opinions. Overall, women were more critical towards bullfighting than men. The full report with all the results per country and for the different political preferences can be found here. 

Previous research

The results of our research are supported by other surveys. In 2022, BBVA Foundation surveyed the opinion of Spaniards about bullfighting: eight in ten are against these cruel spectacles. In France, 87 percent of the population is against bullfighting, according to a 2022 IFOP survey. 

The fact that the majority of Spaniards, French and Portuguese are against bullfighting is reflected in the declining number of bullfights. In the past 20 years, the number of bullfights in France has decreased by 40 percent. In Spain, by 63 percent since 2007. And in Portugal, 166 bullfights were held in 2023, according to Portugal’s Board of Cultural Activities (IGAC). That is the lowest number ever recorded in the country. 10 years ago, 221 bullfights were organized, 55 more than in 2023.