Animal rights groups claimed victory after the EU parliament voted to cut subsidies to farms raising cattle for bullfighting. In Strasburg, MEPs overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the 2016 budget stating that no EU money should be used to fund "lethal bullfighting activities".
The motion put forward by the Greens was voted by 438 lawmakers, while 199 voted against and 50 abstained. However, it will hold a merely symbolic value unless EU finance ministers approve it as part of the budget.
Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout, who proposed the amendment, was nevertheless in celebratory mood. "This is a good day for all European citizens asking for a better treatment of animals," he told IBTimes UK. Eickhout said it was unacceptable that farmers rearing bulls for fighting events receive a share of EU agricultural subsidies.
"The European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming is clear: animals should not suffer pain, injury, fear or distress. It's also clear that farmers who breed and raise bulls for bullfighting do not comply with those conditions. Therefore these farmers should not be eligible for agricultural subsidies," he said.
The cut is worth about £110m (€150m, $168m) a year, according to estimates, and will be most felt in Spain, where bullfighting known as corrida is entrenched in cultural tradition. Former king Juan Carlos is among the pastime's most vocal supporters.
Animal rights group Peta said of the vote: "This is a wonderful step forward and could be the final nail in the coffin for Spain's already struggling bullfighting industry."
A 2013 report by Green MEPs on Spain's bullfighting concluded the movement was being artificially kept afloat by local and EU subsidies. According to it, Spanish authorities spent more than €571m a year in funds to the corrida. "Without such backing, this recreational activity would probably be on the brink of financial collapse and unable to subsist," the report said.
The expenditure at a time of economic crisis-imposed cuts contributed to bullfighting coming under increasing pressure also within Spain.