The bulls are back

By bogotapost February 13, 2015
Photo: Naoki Nakashima CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo: Naoki Nakashima CC BY-SA 2.0

In latest chapter of ongoing saga, Constitutional Court overrules Petro

Bogota’s 84-year-old Plaza de Toros de Santa María may echo to the sound of bulls’ hooves once more after the Colombian Constitutional Court (CCC) ruled local governments do not have the authority to ban bullfights in the city.

The tight, 5-4 decision by the judges marks the end of a two-year struggle between Bogota’s mayor, Gustavo Petro, animal rights groups and bullfighting organisations.

Bullfighting in Bogota was discontinued when Petro’s administration deferred a contract with the Bullfighting Corporation of Bogota in 2012, opting to transform the 14,500-seat ring into a community space for concerts and other events.

The ban was lifted in September last year after the Bullfighting Corporation won their appeal to the CCC on the grounds of the right to free artistic expression.

Petro swiftly challenged the decision but the most recent ruling leaves him powerless to stop the bullfights’ return.

Animal rights groups are now calling for a city-wide referendum on the matter. With an estimated 15 month long restoration project to refurbish the dilapidated arena expected to begin in March, it seems there is time to build a case before fighting begins mid 2016.

Andrea Padilla, spokeswoman for animal rights organization AnimaNaturalis International said, ‘through a referendum, we will continue to struggle against bullfighting’.

At a minimum of US $45 a ticket (or 15 percent of the monthly minimum wage), the traditional Spanish import is typically a pastime for the Colombian elite.

With 300 bullrings across the country, reports say Colombia is host to around 100 fights per year. During the ban in Bogota, locals have been travelling to Plaza de Marruecos in Puente Piedra, an hour drive from the city.

By Maddie Elder