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Bullfighters come out in support of matador who held daughter in ring

“Fran” Rivera’s colleagues post their own photos practicing with their children

Authorities in Andalusia have announced that they will look into whether Spanish bullfighter Francisco “Fran” Rivera Ordóñez may have put his baby daughter in danger by holding her in his arm while practicing in the ring.

Rivera Ordóñez ignited controversy on Sunday when he posted a photograph on Instagram showing him bullfighting while carrying his five-month-old daughter.

“Putting your daughter in danger, even if it is a calf, I don’t understand,” wrote one person.

“To think that I put my daughter in danger is an atrocity. She will never be safer than she is in my arms”

“If I were your wife, I’d kill you,” read another message.

British comedian Ricky Gervais, who is a well-known animal-rights campaigner and a fierce critic of bullfighting, also reacted to the story published on Monday by EL PAÍS English Edition about the controversy. “I sorta fused animal abuse with child abuse....” he wrote to his 10 million followers on Twitter and four million on Facebook in reference to the picture, before deleting both posts just minutes later.

But a number of fellow bullfighters have come out in support of Rivera Ordóñez, while other supporters have called him “father of the year.”

The bullfighter explained on Instagram that it was “Carmen’s debut” in the ring.

“This is the fifth generation of bullfighters in our family,” he said. “My grandfather used to bullfight with me and my father like this. My father also used to bullfight like this with me, and I have done it with my daughter Cayetana and now Carmen.”

After the controversy broke, Rivera Ordóñez denied on Twitter that he had put his daughter in danger.

“My daughter has never been safer. I am a bullfighter by the grace of God; I make a living from this and dedicate myself 365 days a year. Not at any moment was she in danger.

“There are many more dangerous things in which children are involved, but I am not going to go into that. Please respect our traditions,” he wrote.

But his explanations failed to calm the criticism on social media, which only grew worse.

“The number of insults and death threats that I have received is amazing. What type of person wishes a death sentence on another?” the bullfighter said.

“The way that Spain is today … to think that I put my daughter in danger is an atrocity. She will never be safer than she is in my arms,” he wrote in the above tweet.

The animal rights group Pacma called the photo an “embarrassment.”

In its own Twitter account, the Andalusia regional government’s Ombudsman for Children’s office said it would look into the matter.

“If the photograph is a true image, we totally reject this,” it wrote (above). “We will gather information to analyze possible action.”

But other bullfighters who came out in Rivera Ordóñez’s defense began posting similar photographs of themselves holding their children in the ring.

“What’s the problem in showing our children a profession that we love and is filled with values?” asked bullfighter Manuel El Cordobés Díaz.

“With my nephew in support of @paquirri74,” wrote Álvaro Oliver on Twitter. “Respect our life, respect our values.”

Just days after his second daughter Carmen was born, Rivera was seriously injured when he was gored by a bull in Huesca. Sources close to the bullfighter said the photo showed him celebrating his return to the ring with his daughter.

English version by Martin Delfín.