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MADRID: Spain’s left-wing government said on Friday it would scrap a national prize for bullfighting, a move which angered supporters of the controversial spectacle but was welcomed by animal rights groups.

“A growing majority” of Spaniards are concerned about animal welfare, so “we did not believe it is appropriate to maintain an award that rewards a form of animal abuse”, said Culture Minister Ernest Urtasun, who belongs to hard-left party Sumar, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s junior coalition partners.

"I think they understand even less that these forms of animal torture are rewarded with medals that come with monetary prizes using public money," he added during an interview with private television La Sexta.

The annual prize, which was created in 2011 under a previous Socialist government and was first awarded in 2013, grants 30,000 euros ($32,000) to winners.

Top matadors such as Enrique Ponce and Julian Lopez, known as "El Juli", have won the prize in the past.

Bullfighting retains a passionate following in some circles in Spain and leading matadors are treated as celebrities.

But the practice's mass appeal has faded and polls show a rising disinterest across the country, especially among the young.

Only 1.9 percent of Spain's population attended a bullfight during the 2021-22 season, down from 8.0 percent in 2018-19, according to a survey of leisure habits carried out by the culture ministry.

In recent years bullfighting has become a key issue in Spain's culture wars, pitting left-wing parties against conservatives who argue it is an integral part of the country's identity.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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