Friday, September 21, 2012

Bullfighting survives French constitutional challenge

(credit for mid-1800s painting by Edouard Manet)
Claims that bullfighting is unconstitutionally cruel to animals succumbed today to counterclaims of cultural pluralism.
Le Comité radicalement anticorrida, an animal-rights group that goes by the acronym CRAC and counts among its supporters French luminaries like Brigitte Bardot, initiated the contest against la corrida, as bullfighting is known in the southern regions of France where it's long been practiced.
That practice has been protected by Article 521-1 of the French Penal Code, which generally forbids animal cruelty. That article makes exceptions however, for bullfighting and cockfighting, if they take place in certain regions "where an uninterrupted local tradition can be invoked."
CRAC argued that this provision violates constitutional principles of equal treatment, set forth inter alia in Article 6 of the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, which states:
« La loi... doit être la même pour tous, soit qu'elle protège, soit qu'elle punisse ».
that is
'The law ... must be the same for everyone, with respect to protection as well as to punishment.'
A Conseil constitutionnel judgment, issued today, rejected that argument.
Referring to Article 521-1, the decision of France's 9 constitutional judges determined (my translation):
'The difference that this law draws between acts of the same nature done in different geographic zones is directly linked to the purpose of the law. ... Given, moreover, that the law authorizes judges to determine whether a situation in fact relates to an interrupted local tradition ... is sufficiently precise to guarantee against the risk of arbitrariness.'
Lamenting the decision, CRAC declared, "We are in a tauromachique dictatorship."
Meanwhile, supporters defended the sanctioning of les courses aux taureaux (yet another name for bullfighting) as promoting "cultural, social, and regional pluralism."

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