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Catalonia's bullfight ban a huge victory

By Jordi Casamitjana, Special to CNN
  • Jordi Casamitjana: Catalonia's bullfighting ban a historic victory for animal welfare
  • Also a victory for thousands of Catalonians who worked for the ban, Casamitjana says
  • He believes bullfighting is an excuse to cruelly inflict pain on confused animal
  • Casamitjana hopes this will led to bans in all nations that allow bullfighting

Editor's note: Jordi Casamitjana is a consultant for PROU, a platform of animal protection organizations and individuals that mobilized Catalonia to abolish bullfighting.

(CNN) -- This week, Catalonia took a huge step forward in ending the cruel "sport" of bullfighting.

Its parliament voted in favor of amending the animal protection legislation to abolish bullfighting in the region. The vote, passed with 68 in favor of the ban and 55 against, is a historic victory for animal welfare.

It is also a vindication for the thousands of Catalonians who called on their parliament to include bulls in their animal protection law. Back in December 2009, the organization PROU presented a "popular legislative initiative" to the Catalonian Parliament with more than 180,000 signatures supporting the end to bullfighting. This action initiated the nearly yearlong process that led up to this week's vote.

Many pro-bullfighting activists have argued that the "sport" is an important part of the Spanish culture and should not be banned. But cultural heritage is no excuse for inflicting pain on a frightened and confused animal. This campaign is not a matter of arbitrary prohibitions or of stomping on people's individual freedoms. It is a matter of suffering.

Video: Catalonia bans bullfighting

This is the reality: During a bullfight, the bull is stabbed for about 15 minutes by spears, spikes and daggers. The animal dies slowly and painfully. When the matador sticks in the final sword, it often pierces the lungs instead of the heart, and the bulls are left drowning in their own blood.

Actor, comedian, producer and writer Ricky Gervais agrees.

"Sometimes the worst kind of cruelty is done in the name of entertainment. It sickens me to know that people still pay money to see an animal tortured to death."

"I am absolutely delighted with the result of the Catalonian vote," said Gervais, who is a supporter of the World Society for the Protection of Animals' campaign to end bullfighting. "A huge thank you to everyone who played their part."

For the past year, WSPA has worked closely with PROU to help end bullfighting in Catalonia. Earlier this week, the organization's campaigners met with the Catalonian Parliament President Ernest Benach and handed him a letter signed by 165,000 people who supported the bullfighting ban.

Fortunately, bullfighting is dwindling in popularity. A 2006 Gallup poll showed that 72 percent of Spaniards have no interest in bullfighting. It's not even aired on TVE, the main public TV station in Spain. It's also in decline in Latin America; a city in Ecuador has declared itself anti-bullfighting.

All in all, this week's vote in Catalonia creates a strong precedent -- one I hope will be replicated by other regions where bullfights are still allowed, including several countries in Europe, South America and North America. Waiting is not an option. Otherwise, these fine animals will continue to suffer unnecessarily.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jordi Casamitjana.