How Spain's economic crisis has affected the bullfighting industry

(Reuters)

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For many Canadians, bullfighting exists only in the prose of Ernest Hemingway and the stunts of Bugs Bunny. The sport still draws crowds in Spain -- but the country's economic crisis has seen many empty seats in Spanish bullrings. Today we air a documentary with a dimming of the suit of lights.



Documentary, Debt in the Afternoon by Caroline Arbour

We started this segment with sound of a crowd cheering on a young bullfighter at a Seville bullring in Southern Spain. The applause for the final fight of the year was not exactly thunderous.

About half of the more than 12 thousand seats in the ring were empty. Not a big surprise, given that the three bullfighters on the ticket that day were not well known and unlikely to draw a lot of fans. But the image is symbolic of tough times. An industry first wounded by animal rights activists... now is suffering from Spain's severe economic crisis. It's damaging what fans still consider the country's pre-eminent national spectacle.

Government statistics show the number of bullfighting events across Spain has dropped by about 40 percent between 2007 and 2011. Like a bull suffering from the bungling of a clumsy matador, the competition lives, but doesn't thrive. And while there are diverging views about the future of Spanish bullfighting .. experts do agree the industry will not emerge from this economic crisis unscathed.

Freelance journalist Caroline Arbour's documentary is called Debt in the Afternoon.

Orson Welles - It's All True

Well many famous people have been mesmerized by bullfighting ... Ernest Hemingway of course... but you might not know Orson Welles - in his early life - had been an aspiring bullfighter. In 1955 Welles did a series of television episodes for the BBC.

On one occasion he described the true story of a heroic bull named Bonito. It was written by Robert Flaherty and filmed by Welles in 1942. It was to be part of his unfinished film, It's All True.

The story, as it goes, is about a boy named Juanito who befriends a bull. But when it's discovered that the boy has made a pet of Bonito - he is in great trouble because if a fighting bull is tamed... his usefullness is over. Still as the bull grows... the boy continues to sneak visits with Bonito ... until the day comes that Bonito is taken to Madrid. To fight.

We aired an excerpt of Orson Welles telling that story.



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