Usually, at this time of year, Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring is packed as matadors kill bulls in daily fights during the annual San Isidro festival.
But plazas across Spain are empty this season as the coronavirus epidemic has kept matadors and fans stuck in their homes for weeks.
Major bullfighting festivals such as San Isidro, Sevilla’s April Fair, and Pamplona’s San Fermin in July have been canceled. Bulls have been sent from ranches straight to the slaughterhouse.
The shut-down could end the controversial spectacle. Traditionally a symbolic part of Spanish culture, it has struggled for survival in recent decades. Although the big festivals still draw crowds, public interest in bullfighting has gone down considerably.
Local governments have cut funding for fiestas, left-wing politicians oppose it, and a highly vocal anti-bullfight movement has grabbed headlines. Some cities and regions, like Catalonia, already prohibit bullfights, or ‘corridas’.
Activists have staged regular demonstrations outside plazas – sometimes even painting themselves with fake blood and lying down naked on the ground. For them, it is a cruel and bloody spectacle which has no place in modern Spain.
Although Spain has started to ease its coronavirus lockdown, it is not clear if any bullfights will now take place before the end of the season in October.
“It has been good news, one of the few good news brought by this pandemic,” said Aida Gascon of animal welfare organization AnimaNaturalis.
“We see it as positive news because of all the bulls that are not going to be tortured to death, although we know they are going to die anyway as they will be sent to the slaughterhouse. But at least those animals are not going to be tortured and nobody is going to benefit from that torture show,” Gascon said.
“Four or five thousand fighting bulls will go to the slaughterhouse this year,” said Andres Romero, a bullfighter who kills bulls while sitting on a horse. Ranchers have already shipped hundreds of bulls to the slaughterhouses.