by CIARAN GILES
c The Associated Press
MADRID, Spain (AP) - Tough European measures against mad
cow disease are threatening to bring an end to one of Spain's oldest
traditions: small town festivals featuring bullfights.
"The regulations could be catastrophic,'' said Jaime
Sebastian de Erice, spokesman for the Union of Fighting Bull Breeders.
"Up to 80 percent of the bullfighting festivals in Spain will not be
able take on the costs of the new measures.''
New European Union rules state that cattle over 30
months old must be tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
popularly known as mad cow disease, before they are slaughtered for
human consumption. Otherwise they must be destroyed, usually by
But these measures collide head-on with the
centuries-old tradition in Spain of selling carcasses of fighting bulls
killed in the ring directly to butchers. Steaks, stew, tails, ears and
testicles from the slain animals are popular fare in restaurants and
meat markets after each fight.
According to Sebastian de Erice, about 40,000 bulls are
slaughtered annually in an estimated 17,000 bullfight festivals, an
industry that generates $4.5 billion a year. He said 14,000 of the
festivals are small-town affairs run on a shoestring.
Maximino Perez, organizer of the four-day Valdemorillo
town festival this month outside Madrid, said the mad cow scare has been
an "economic disaster.''
"I lost 6 million pesetas ($34,000), or some 20 percent
of the festival budget, just abiding by the mad cow regulations,'' he
Perez, who organizes about 50 such festivals a year,
said he's not likely to see the season through unless authorities change
the regulations or subsidize the festivals.
For the moment, Sebastian de Erice said, neither the
central nor regional governments have offered any help.
Sebastian de Erice said the top-category bullfights in
major towns and cities are not likely to be affected by the measures
since their budgets can absorb the extra costs more easily.
Perez said he lost about $340 for each of the 52 bulls
he used at Valdemorillo and spent about as much incinerating each
He said some bulls and calves used in small-town
festivals escape the regulations because they are less than 2 years old.
The average age of bulls used in the larger festivals is 3 or more.
Some festivals this year have had veterinary facilities
available to test the dead bulls. On testing negative, they were
slaughtered and the meat sold to butchers, Sebastian de Erice said.
Breeders fear that if one of their bulls tests positive
after a fight, it could lead to the mandatory slaughter of every cow and
bull on the ranch where the bull was raised.
A fighting bull from a prestigious breeder can cost up
to $17,000 - 30 times the price of some cows - and a ranch can have up
to 40 such bulls, plus some 200 cows.
No cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy - a
brain-wasting illness with a crossover, incurably fatal human equivalent
- have been reported among Spain's fighting bulls, although 23 cases
among cows have surfaced since November.
Breeders say that Spain's fighting bulls traditionally
graze in pastures, rather than eat now-banned feeds made from ground-up
animal remains - the practice blamed for the original outbreak of mad
cow in Britain in the 1980s.
Go on to WWAIL 2001
Return to 18 March 2001 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright