As part of a legal offensive led by the Society for the Protection of Animals, the organizers of corrida, the city of Nîmes and bullfighters are prosecuted for serious mistreatment or complicity in acts of cruelty to animals. The trial is being held this Wednesday.
After Béziers and Bayonne, it is in Nîmes that the new episode of the series of trials opposing the Society for the Protection of Animals to bullfighting players takes place. This Wednesday, the horse torera Léa Vicens, the organizer of bullfights Simon Casas and the mayor of Nîmes (LR) Jean-Paul Fournier are called to appear for “serious abuse or complicity in acts of cruelty to animals“before the criminal court of Nîmes.
A judicial offensive by the SPA
To lead its fight against bullfighting, the national SPA has chosen the legal route. In November 2017, the association filed a complaint against several towns with a bullfighting tradition, organizers of bullfights and bullfighters, considering these shows to be animal abuse. Béziers, Bayonne, Carcassonne, Nîmes and even Dax are concerned.
The SPA’s argument is based on article 521-1 of the Penal Code, according to which “the fact of exercising serious mistreatment (…) or of committing an act of cruelty towards a domestic animal, or tamed, or held in captivity, is punished by two years of imprisonment and a 30,000 euros fine.“
The stake of tradition
However, a paragraph “excludes the application of these provisions to bull races“, for cases”where an unbroken local tradition can be invoked.“This argument from the”unbroken local tradition“has so far served as a legal shield for all anti-bullfighting attacks against bullfighting shows in the south of France. The SPA has been unsuccessful in its claims in previous trials in Béziers and Bayonne.
“The whole debate revolves around this question: is Nîmes a city of unbroken bullfighting tradition? It is very easy to answer them, the Féria de Nîmes is world famous.“, sweeps master Jean-Pierre Bigonnet, the lawyer of Simon Casas.
For its part, the SPA denies that bullfighting is a tradition in Nîmes.
Corrida is an activity imported from Spain: all terms are Spanish, not Catalan. Then, the majority of the population is unfavorable to this activity. Can a very small minority of aging people impose a rule by virtue of a tradition on the vast majority of people who are against these practices?
To assert that the majority of the population is unfavorable to bullfighting, the SPA uses the results of an Ifop poll published in 2019. Commissioned by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, it had established that “74% of French people were in favor of eliminating bullfighting in France“.
An instrumentalisation of the courts?
Jean-Pierre Bigonnet, lawyer for Simon Casas, considers the SPA procedure “reckless, if not abusive“.
Bullfighting is perfectly legal. These trials are part of an overall strategy of the SPA which operates by means of communication. It is unfortunate to use the tribunal as a forum.
For its part, the SPA assumes to use the legal route, while hoping to weigh, in the long term, on the legislation. “Our goal is to ban bullfighting“, confirms Jacques Fombonne.
The magistrates of Nîmes should put their decision under advisement. In Dax, another bullfighting city, a judgment for an identical case is expected in the coming days. A similar procedure is announced in Carcassonne.