Bullfighting set to return to Mexico City amid legal battle between fans and animal rights defenders

Bullfighting set to return to Mexico City amid legal battle between fans and animal rights defenders

Bullfights were set to return to Mexico City on Sunday after the country’s highest court temporarily revoked a local ruling that sided with human rights defenders and suspended the events for more than a year and a half.

The resumption of bullfights in the Plaza Mexico arena, the largest of its kind in the world, has raised expectations in the face of a lengthy legal battle between enthusiasts and opponents, who argue the practice violates animal welfare and affects people’s rights to a healthy environment.

Bullfighting is still allowed in much of Mexico. In the capital, the legal fight for its future is full of twists and turns.

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Students learn capework during a bullfighting workshop at the San Jose cattle ranch in Aculco, Mexico on Thursday. Photo: AP

In May 2022, a local court ordered an end to bullfighting activities at Plaza Mexico in response to an injunction presented by the civil organisation Justicia Justa, which defends human rights. But the activities were set to resume on Sunday because the nation’s Supreme Court of Justice in December revoked the suspension while the merits of the case are discussed and a decision is reached on whether bullfights affect animal welfare.

Another civil organisation filed an appeal on Friday on animal welfare grounds in a last-ditch effort to prevent the activity from resuming. A ruling was not expected before Sunday’s event.

As an alternative to the court system, some local organisations called for a march in the Zocalo, or main plaza, in central Mexico City, as well as protests around Plaza Mexico on Sunday.

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Animal rights groups have been gaining ground in Mexico in recent years while bullfighting followers have suffered several setbacks. In some states such as Sinaloa, Guerrero, Coahuila, Quintana Roo and the western city of Guadalajara, judicial measures now limit the activity.

Ranchers, businessmen and fans maintain that the ban on bullfights affects their rights and puts at risk several thousand jobs linked to the activity, which they say generates about US$400 million a year in Mexico. The National Association of Fighting Bull Breeders in Mexico estimates that bullfighting is responsible for 80,000 direct jobs and 146,000 indirect jobs.

The association has hosted events and workshops in recent years to promote bullfights and find new, younger fans.

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