Corridors of Power: Bullfighting in Spain, the Catholic Church in China and More

Corridors of Power: Bullfighting in Spain, the Catholic Church in China and More

NO MORE DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON? -- Sixty years ago, Spain's state-run television inaugurated its transmissions with a bullfight. This month, in an indication of the social change Spain has undergone in the past 25 years, the official television network, TVE, canceled afternoon transmissions of the corrida -- the bullfight -- one of its highest rated summer shows. When bullfight fans protested, TVE said daytime broadcasts of the national sport contravened the law banning violent programs during children's viewing hours.

But TVE's decision to grab the issue by the horns reflected the growing controversy over the future of the Spanish corrida, so vividly captured on canvas by Goya and on paper by Ernest Hemingway. Animal rights activists denounce bullfights both as cruelty towards the bull and as a violent spectacle. A proposal is gaining ground to ban children under 14 from the bullring altogether, which critics say would kill the sport by cutting off its future audience. The ban is already in force in the northern region of Catalonia and, in any case, lack of interest among the younger generation Spaniards is one of the corrida's problems.

By temperament, Spain's socialist government is opposed to bullfighting, but with an election in March, the left is playing it safe. Environment Minister Cristina Narbona came up with the (for bullfighting fans) heretical suggestion that there should be no kill, which is actually the case in corridas in Portugal, but the idea was immediately shot down by the party secretary, Jose Blanco.

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