European Parliament sends double message on EU support to bullfighting in new agriculture policy
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European Parliament sends double message on EU support to bullfighting in new agriculture policy

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The marathon debate last week in the European Parliament resulted in a decision on EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) for next budget period (2021 – 2027).

At the end, most MEP across all political party groups from member states that receive significant EU funding for their agriculture voted for the package and it was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 425 voting for and 212 against.

The debate focused on numerous amendments to the Commission’s proposal on the CAP reform which had been submitted already in 2018 before the European Green Deal, including the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies, had been presented by the new Commission this year. There was no support in the Parliament for sending the proposal back to the Commission for an update.

Two amendments concerned the controversial issue of EU funding of bullfighting, an issue which has been discussed for years without any solution. Bullfighting dates to the Roman period. Today, Spain is probably the only EU country which considers it as part of its national heritage, although the public has reportedly lost interest in it, and which subsidizes it with public money, including EU funding.

“Public money should not be spent on violent and aggressive activities that are done for entertainment, whether in the name of tradition or culture,” commented Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU.

“Witnessing animal suffering for pleasure is simply not acceptable, whatever the excuse. Modern society should not condone bullfighting and other such practices that belong to the past.”

One amendment (1347), excluding basic income support for “the proportion of area dedicated to the cultivation of pasture, feed or other sources of feeding for animals whose final destination is their sale for activities related to bullfighting, both by direct sales or through intermediaries, was narrowly rejected.

On the other hand, another amendment (1352), excluding “coupled support income” for “the number of heads of cattle whose final destination is the sale for activities related to bullfighting, both by direct sale and through intermediaries”, was accepted by about the same margin.

Impact of amendments

Every farmer receives the first type of support in the form of an annual decoupled payment per eligible hectare, independent of specific activities. Coupled support can target aid to a specific agricultural sector or sub-sector which is undergoing difficulties. National authorities decide on the grants of coupled support. So, what impact will the two decisions have on EU funding to bullfighting?

MEP Anja Hazekamp (the Netherlands, GUE/NGL) replied that the adopted amendment includes a recital which says that the EU “should not provide support to farmers whose activities include breeding of bulls for bullfighting”. This would suggest no funding at all to bullfighting.

Both amendments on bullfighting had been proposed by the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) in the Parliament.

MEP Francisco Guerreiro (Portugal, Greens/EFA) told The Brussels Times that his political group is happy that an amendment to restrict the CAP funding to bullfighting was integrated in the Parliament’s position. The reason why only one amendment was accepted is not clear. Analysing the votes shows that several MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D) refrained from supporting the other amendment.

In Spain, it seems that the Unión de Criadores de Toros de Lidia (UCTL) (Spanish Union of Bull Breeders) intends to take the matter to the European Court of Justice.

“From my perspective, the EU citizens are the ones that have a valid case to be taken up by the court, as it’s their money – that should be used to produce food – which is being used to torture these animals and amuse certain individuals,” MEP Guerrerio said.“I hope that our amendment now survives the inter-constitutional negotiations and becomes a first step to the end of bullfighting in the EU.”

He added that the bullfighting amendment is more than a symbolic issue for supporters of animal welfare. “It was actually the only good thing in terms of animal welfare that survived the voting in the parliament.”

Now when both the Council and the Parliament as co-legislators have agreed on their positions on the future CAP, they will enter into tripartite negotiations (trilogue) with the Commission, with a view to reach an overall agreement.

Following an earlier request by the Parliament, the Commission published in May an analysis of the links between the CAP and the Green Deal. The Commission is of the opinion that the CAP reform proposal is compatible with the Green Deal’s ambitions but admitted that further steps are needed to make the future CAP fully compatible with the Green Deal and its strategies.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times