Having always come under the remit of the Interior Ministry, bullfighting is now to be the responsibility of the Culture Ministry, the cabinet decided last Friday. The decision is the follow-up to a promise made to a group of bullfighters last October by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, now the Socialist candidate to the prime minister's seat in the upcoming November elections.
In a statement, the government said that "given that bullfighting is considered to be an artistic discipline and a cultural product, the state powers with regard to its encouragement and protection are most properly located with the Culture Ministry."
The royal decree says the ministry will now be in charge of promoting the study, statistics and analysis of bullfighting, as well as keeping the registry of industry professionals and hosting the national committee on bullfighting affairs.
The sector was happy to see a long-held ambition come to pass. It also adds coherence to government policy regarding bullfighting, since the state has granted the Fine Arts medal to famous bullfighters, while at the same time denying them the right to be considered artists.
In any case, the transfer is little more than a matter of esthetics and politics, since for years the Interior Ministry only oversaw a couple of administrative issues. All other matters are handled by the regional governments, some of which - Andalusia and the Basque Country - have their own bullfighting regulations. And the paradox remains that the bullfighting sector does not depend on the culture department of any of the 17 regional governments - even though some of them have declared the fiesta a Cultural Interest Asset.
Industry leaders hope this step will help promote bullfighting and bring about a reduction in the value-added tax rate to which it is subject, which now stands at 18 percent compared to eight percent for artistic activities. But that decision does not depend on the Culture Ministry but parliament, since it entails reviewing the tax rate.
And the most important step still remains: the ills that plague bullfighting do not have their origin in any ministry, but in the heart of the sector itself. The degradation of the fighting bull, the permanent suspicion of fraud and the obsolete business model, to name just three problems, will not find any solution in the Culture Ministry. That responsibility lies with the industry itself, which is once again being given a chance to take the step from esthetics to ethics.