Colombia Makes History By Banning Bullfighting: A Triumph For Animal Welfare

Colombia takes a historic step forward today by banning bullfighting nationwide and consigning this cruel spectacle to the past. It follows years of campaigning by Animal Defenders International (ADI) and other groups as part of the Colombia Sin Toreo (Colombia Without Bullfighting) coalition, which championed the legislation.

“Since 2017, we have been presenting total abolitionist bills against bullfighting, but the bills did not advance or were shelved due to sabotage by the bullfighting lobby. This last bill received a huge amount of attacks. Despite that, the congressmen made a wise decision thanks to the ethical, legal, and scientific arguments that were presented,” said Eduardo Pena, with ADI Colombia.

“Bravo Colombia for taking action and ending this cruel activity. We hope other nations will now step up and halt this brutal pastime. There is no place for bullfighting in a modern civilized society,” said Jan Creamer, President of ADI.

The ban on bullfighting (Bill 219/23C), authored by Senator Esmeralda Hernández, Representative Juan Carlos Losada, and more than 40 congress members from different parties, passed the Senate back in September and went through 5 days of contentious debates before passing 93-2 in its final vote in the House of Representatives of the Colombian Congress on May 28th.

“Today is a day in which Colombia makes history. Today, more than 500 years of animal torture in bullrings comes to an end and makes way for a more just, dignified, and empathetic society. I want to extend my gratitude to the citizens and to all the animal rights groups that have inspired us and with whom we have worked hand in hand, to the congressmen who paved the way for us, to the speakers in the House and Senate who did a wonderful job, and to each representative who today said yes to life, to animals, and no to death, torture, and cruelty. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Senator Esmeralda Hernandez.

“Today we make history! We did it! Today, after more than 7 years of fighting to prohibit bullfighting by law, we can announce to the thousands of citizens who love life that Colombia is eliminating this animal torture disguised as culture,” said Representative Juan Carlos Losada.

“This is historic, and I celebrate that Colombia is finally no longer part of the list of eight countries that still practice bullfighting today. I am honored to have been entrusted with the defense of this bill and to have fulfilled the wishes of the 85% of Colombians who have expressed their disagreement with bullfighting being held in the country. It was time for Congress to respond to this citizen clamor, and I thank my colleagues for supporting this initiative so that today we can say that this activity is prohibited in Colombia. Colombia is a country in which all forms of life deserve to live together in peace,” said Representative Alejandro García, the speaker on the bill in the House of Representatives.

Despite popular support for the ban, the law faced opposition from powerful vested interests in the pro-bullfighting lobby.

The law provides a three-year transition period before implementing the ban. The proposal includes a program to help workers in the industry transition to new employment opportunities. Bullrings will be repurposed as cultural hubs, hosting a variety of events that will stimulate economic growth and cultural diversity within the community.

ADI Colombia and Colombia Sin Toreo have been campaigning for a national ban on bullfighting for many years, pressing for legislation since the first bill was introduced in 2017.

During the debates on the bill, ADI sponsored two mobile, digital billboards to tour Bogota, providing the facts on the suffering of bulls and horses. The weekend before the vote, campaigners held vigils for the bulls and horses brutally tortured and killed during bullfights across Colombia. Campaigners lit candles and displayed posters with the names of horses and bulls that have died cruelly and unnecessarily in the name of entertainment.

This historic legislation builds on significant legal advances made for the protection of animals in Colombia. In 1989, the National Animal Protection Statute was created; in 2013, the use of wild animals in circuses was banned with Law 1638; in 2016, animal abuse was criminalized by the Law Against Animal Abuse 1774; in 2020, Colombia banned the use of animals in cosmetics testing through Law 2047, created a system to control and prevent wildlife trafficking with Law 2153, and implemented Law 2054 to protect abandoned and homeless animals.

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