Controversial dwarf bullfighting shows face ban for degrading’ disabled people

The Social Rights Ministry in Spain is calling for a ban on shows of dwarf bullfighters due to it "degrading" people with disabilities.

These controversial shows, which are usually held in small Spanish towns and villages, feature people with dwarfism fighting a young cow.

Spain's Social Rights Ministry has argued that it undermines the dignity of people with dwarfism, which has been backed up by disability associations across the globe, EL PAÍS reports.

The ministry raised the issue on Friday and called for the immediate cancelation of a show featuring bullfighters with dwarfism in the town of Zahínos in Badajoz, Extremadura.

The show's creator, comedy troupe Diversiones en el Ruedo (Amusement in the Ring), have been running events since 2015.

Their company houses 14 bullfighters, eight of whom are little people.

Despite the ministry's objections to the show, the event went ahead as planned.

Jesús Martín Blanco, the head of the department overseeing the rights of people with disabilities at the Ministry of Social Rights, who also has dwarfism, is especially critical of the performances aimed at children.

He said: "If the children are going to laugh at a person in a bullring, they will surely laugh at me when they come out."

Carmen Alonso, from the Alpe Achondroplasia Foundation and whose son suffers from dwarfism, agrees with the problematic effect the shows might have on children.

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“I have been trying to get these types of shows banned since my son was born, and he is now 29,” she says.

“People need to understand that people with disabilities are going to be mocked, in many cases over 60% or 70% of the time. Walking down the street we have been pointed at many times, and people say things like ‘there goes the bullfighter fireman’,” she explains.

Felipe Ordiz, another member of the Alpe Achondroplasia Foundation said the shows are "based on humiliation" and is working to build an "unhealthy society."

He added: "We have to ask ourselves what would happen if a similar show was made with people with Down syndrome, or sensory impairment, or any other type of disability. Would it be allowed?"

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Despite the strong support for banning the events, not everyone agrees that it is the right way to go.

Daniel Calderón, the manager of Diversiones en el Ruedo, who is also a bullfighter, said: “Everyone should be able to work at what they want.

"We are all professionals; we are accredited with the Culture Ministry; we contribute to the Social Security system, and we do not want to live on subsidies, we want to fight.

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"It’s our trade. I invite everyone to come and see if they are really laughing at them or laughing with them.

"It’s a show like any other. Contrary to what’s being said, they are idols for the children. The kids go down to the bullring; they do some bullfighting; they have a good time with them, and being of the same stature, they feel like the real thing.”

But Martín Blanco argues that the events display people with dwarfism "as buffoons," adding: “That’s something that should be eradicated by law. It is making fun of someone for having different abilities.

"That is why the ministry is going to direct all its efforts into abolishing these practices and banning these types of shows, which are still allowed by law.”

Recent data suggests that these types of shows are not as popular or common as they once were.

2019 saw 349 bullfights held in Spain, in which only 11 were from comedy troupes, according to the Culture Ministry’s Statistics of Bullfighting Affairs.

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