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ACT Xàbia have organised rally against Ayuntamiento's ban on 'toro embolado'

Tuesday 19th April 2016


Pro-bull campaigners will be staging a demonstration in Xàbia on Sunday 1st May to show their discontent at the decision of the Ayuntamiento to prohibit the staging of the controversial 'toro embolado' and 'toro encajonado' in the municipality. Organised by the 'Asociación Cultural Taurina Xàbia (ACT)', the protest is already gaining support from other such associations across the region, some of which have also seen similar prohibitions imposed, in what it being seen as a struggle to maintain as valued traditions protected by the Spanish Constitución.

At the end of last February, the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia announced that it would no longer be authorising the staging of 'toro embolado' and 'toro encajonado' during bull-running events in the town, although standard bull-running in the streets would still be permitted. This appeared to be in response to an incident during January's San Sebastian fiestas when an apparently enraged bull ripped out a securing post and dragged it around the enclosure in front of the historic church of San Bartolomé for several minutes until organisers were able to release the animal before it could be injured. The incident was captured on video which, through the power of the Internet, found its way to various media outlets who then reported on it. The ACT Xàbia said that it was clearly an accident, that two of the four iron hooks of the special platform that secures the post into a manhole had been broken by the sheer strength of the bull, and that similar platforms had been used many times before without incident. However, mayor José Chulvi explained that a decision had been taken in response to safety concerns, both for people and animals, as well as a sign of executive committee's commitment against animal abuse. It was a decision that delighted many anti-campaigners who saw it as a progressive act which dragged Xàbia into the 21st century. But it was not universally welcomed.

The decision was given personally to representatives of the organising committees of the three biggest fiestas in Xàbia - Jesús Nazareno, Fogueres de Sant Joan and Mare de Déu del Loreto - but the ACT Xàbia, who organise the bull events in the town, were not invited to hear the announcement and would was only made aware as the news filtered across social media networks. At the time, the ACT Xàbia Facebook group reported that it was "feeling furious" at being left out of the process, adding that "no-one called us to the meeting ... we would have thought that they would have to let us know since we are the ACT Xàbia and we had planned the San Sebastian festitivies together with the San Sebastian organisers".  It concluded that it would fight the decision as far as it could.

In mid-March, more than 45,000 pro-bull campaigners from across Spain, Portugal and France, including representatives from ACT Xàbia, attended a demonstration in Valencia under the slogan "Bulls: Culture, tradition and freedom" to fight attempts to abolish bull-fighting in all its forms. It was seen as a launch pad for a series of actions to be taken across the country in defence of the bull culture, a right which supporters say is clearly protected in the Spanish Constitución. Many renowned bull fighters attended the rally as well as representatives from the breeders associations who insisted that the bull tradition creates jobs which has a positive effect on rural communities as well as contributing to the state coffers and revitalising the economies of many towns and cities. Indeed, figures in a 2015 report by ANOET showed that bull-fighting contributed almost 140 million euros in VAT payments to the Treasury with tickets sales at bull-rings amounted to some 45 million euros of VAT alone, five million euros more than the income derived from tax on alcohol and over 17 million euros more than that derived from ticket sales at cinemas in Spain.

On April 15th, the ACT Xàbia announced details of its own demonstration on Sunday 1st May at 6.00pm starting the the Plaza de la Marina Alta in front of the Correos. It called on the support of the aficionados of Xàbia and surrounding towns to come together to show their discontent at the decision to prohibit the 'toro embolado' and 'toro encajonado' as well as to show their support of the taurino world as a whole. Whilst acknowledging that these specific events are not everyone's cup of tea, there is still an enormous amount of support for them and one of the biggest questions being asked is that the authorities banned the 'toro embolado' and 'toro encajonado' without offering the chance for the population to have their say in a referendum as has been offered in other municipalities such as Aldaia who banned bull events after almost 55% voted for a ban against 43% for voted in favour of tradition. Claims and counter-claim offensives have been launched in both directions. The pro-campaign suggests that those who are against it don't fully understand it; those against insist that there is no justification for what they see as clear animal abuse. The pro-campaign points out that barely fifty anti-bull campaigners turned out to protest in front of the town hall last September, barely 24 hours after several thousands packed into the stands to watch the last night of the 'Bous a la Mar' event in the port. The anti-campaign insist that their efforts, however small, are starting to make an impact, not least in seeing a prohibition of the 'bou embolat'. Bull-running continues to divide opinion like no other issue. However, on Sunday 1st May, those who support the event will be able to have their say.

Speaking to Javea.com, Mayor José Chulvi said the rally would not make him change his decision, reiterating that "in all things there are people who are in favour and others against" adding that the decision was as fair as possible to reflect concerns about the safety of both people and animals. He confirmed that he would not be at the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia to meet with the demonstrators - "I have not been invited and in any case there are other events where I have to be present such as those honouring Jesús Nazareno" - although he confirmed that he had no issues with the demonstration taking place: "everyone has the right to demonstrate and express their views freely".


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