La Bardot Lashes Minister over Bullfights




A chastened Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand, tongue lashed by the feisty Brigitte Bardot and facing the fury of animal rights groups, appears to be wavering on the cultural heritage status of the bullfight.

A feisty Brigitte Bardot has thrust her own estocada into France's bullfighting brouhaha

(Read more online French News here)

The row over a move that has seen French bullfighting listed as part of the national cultural heritage, has raised a blood-red rag for militant anti-animal abuse groups.

Six organisations claiming to speak for more than 700,000 members, have urged the Culture Minister, to reverse an earlier agreement that — in a world first for the art — has seen bullfighting included as an asset under a UNESCO-devised Intangible Cultural Heritage scheme.

Earlier the redoubtable 60s sex symbol Brigitte Bardot lashed out at Minister Mitterrand calling him the “minister for ignorance.” Not mincing her words she said the minister had made “la plus grande connerie de (sa) vie”, politely translated as the greatest mistake of his life, by agreeing to list bullfighting on the national inventory of France’s cultural heritage.

The heritage announcement came on the eve of the great Arles Féria De Los Ninos Easter bullfighting festival and follows years of lobbying from the l’Observatoire National des Cultures Taurines, the national Observatory for Bullfighting Culture.

In a joint statement Brigitte Bardot‘s foundation against animal cruelty and the Society for the Protection of Animals expressed their indignation, telling the minister they strongly opposed “this cruelty “and would make every effort to reverse “this recognition of the horrific killing of bulls.”

Up in arms over the decision, the groups, including a vociferous anti-bullfighting coalition, released the text of an “open letter” to the Minister and said they planned to publish it in full page newspaper advertisements. The letter is signed by the Alliance Against Bullfighting, the SPA de France Confederation, the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, the League for the Protection of Horses and similar single issue lobbies. The signatories, claiming to speak for more than 30 million “friends around the globe, said: “Like most French people, we are shocked that a government department in charge of encouraging and supporting the creation of works of Art can condone the spectacle of animals tortured to death in an arena”. The letter calls the decision “a major regression which has tarnished the image of France.”

For his part the minister took a very conciliatory tone. Reacting to the storm he said: “Brigitte Bardot has the right, like everyone else, to get angry for reasons that are dear to her heart. She has my friendship and my sympathy, as I had occasion to say in other circumstances in which her remarks were also rather excessive.”

Defending his move the minister added: “The inclusion of bullfighting in a simple heritage inventory is done annually by the Ministry of Culture and has no other value other than that it belongs to the inventory. It definitely does not mean that the Ministry of Culture will support and back the candidacy of bullfighting as part of the intangible heritage of UNESCO. These are two different things”, he said.

Earlier in a press release, Andre Viard, president of the l’Observatoire National des Cultures Taurines, established in 2008 in Arles (Bouches-du-Rhone) said: “As of April 22, 2011, bullfighting has been listed as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage making France the first country in the world where bullfighting is recognised in this way.”

But the animal rightists in their letter to Frédéric Mitterrand claim the observatory, “presented as independent, is in fact exclusively comprised of people who support bullfighting, making the decision totally arbitrary “.

In 2006 France ratified a UNESCO Convention adopted in 2003 designed to protect Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Convention requires signatory states to make an inventory of its national cultural wealth.

Bullfighting may not be everyone’s cup of tea but has strong traditions in southern France, the Iberian peninsula and Latin America. In the Camargue more than anywhere else in France, the bull is king. Bulls have lived in the swamps there since Roman times, and are part of daily life. They form the core of many cultural traditions, and while the origins are lost in the mists of time they provide a spark for festivals and feast days across the region.

The move to classify bullfighting as part of the country’s cultural heritage was seen as a master stoke by the Arles afeciouna who regard bullfighting as a way of life, a tourist attraction and a money spinner.

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

Editorial Note: See the comments under this earlier story for an opposing view on the heritage issue.



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