Spanish businessman Carlos Zúñinga has defended one of Spain’s most controversial pastimes by saying that it does "no harm whatsoever" for children to watch a bullfight; it will do them more harm to watch a Gay Pride march.
Zúñinga, co-owner of Circuitos Taurinos, which runs several bullrings around Spain, was responding to criticism from animal rights organizations over the potential harmful effects watching a bullfight could have on children.
Zúñinga, speaking to news agency Europa Press, urged the National Association for the Rights and Freedoms of Animals (Anadel) to respect the "ancestral tradition" of bullfighting, just as he "respected" other fiestas.
"I don’t particularly like fiestas that stand up for people like gay pride, but I don’t attend them and I respect them," he said.
"That is what is harmful for children to watch," he added.
He also said that taking children to watch bullfights did them "no harm whatsoever".
Animal rights groups have been protesting against this week’s Feria de Begoña, the annual bullfighting festival that takes part in El Bibio, the bullring in the Asturian city of Gijón co-owned by Zúñinga.
Animal rights groups have criticized the comments, with Silvia Barquero, head of animal rights political party Pacma, telling The Local:
"In Spain, there are still people anchored in the past. To think that bullfighting is our tradition today is as anachronistic as to think that gay people should not have equal rights. Luckily those people are a minority."
The comments were also met with anger from Spaniards on social media, with one Twitter user writing: "Dear Mr Zúñinga. It is harmful to my nine year old to see the first photo, not the second. Are you homophobic?" (see Tweet below)
A/A de Carlos Zuñiga: a mi hijo de 9 años le daña la vista la primera foto, no la segunda ¿es usted homófobo? pic.twitter.com/ss1tNdjDL6— #AhoraenComún (@MaiteMolinaN) August 13, 2015
Spanish left-wing party Podemos responded to the remark by questioning if Zúñinga's "homophobic comments" disqualified him from running a public venue.
Declaraciones homófobas del gestor de la Plaza de Toros de Xixón lo inhabilitan para la gestión de espacios públicos http://t.co/nt9qJ55FvX— Podemos Asturias (@PodemosAsturies) August 13, 2015
Zúñinga, an active Twitter user, responded with a tweet apologising if he had offended anyone with his comments:
The bullfighting aficionado also claimed that animal rights was not the main reason behind anti-bullfighting protests:
"All of these fantasies are a pantomime just to be against the national fiesta and against everything that Spain stands for," he said.
He also defended the rearing of bulls to be send to the bullring, arguing that even though they are raised for four years to be killed in the bullring, "they are treated better than anyone" and compared the harsh treatment to calves fattened up for veal to the relative luxury in which bulls live.
The businessman also justified the controversial practice of the running of the bulls by pointing out how much money the activity generated. It is "the cultural activity that brings the most money to Spain" not at all comparable with cinema or theatre, he argued.
He also complained that bullfighting bosses received no government subsidies, despite the fact that the activity "generates many jobs and wealth" in Spain.
Famous Spanish bullfighter Francisco "Fran" Rivera was seriously injured in a goring earlier this week, which was reminiscent of the goring which killed his father, acclaimed bullfighter Paquirri, in 1984.