Backlash erupts over bid to designate bullfighting as cultural heritage

Two bulls lock horns in a fight in Cheongdo County, North Gyeongsang Province. /Courtesy of Cheongdo County

By KTimes

Animal rights activists are urging the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) to halt a study of the cultural value of bullfighting as a potential intangible cultural heritage.

Six civic groups, including Green Party Korea, held a press conference in front of the Government Complex on Tuesday, asserting that bullfighting constitutes clear animal abuse.

In January, the CHA announced that bullfighting was selected for investigation to review whether bullfighting is deemed for preservation and be designated as part of the nation’s cultural legacy.

However, activists contend that behind the spectacle lies the harsh reality of bull training, where the animals undergo grueling exercises such as pulling tires and learning fighting techniques, all for the amusement of humans and gambling. These animals are coerced into fighting, often resulting in injuries that prompt public outrage against the practice.

Despite the controversy, bullfighting is currently allowed due to an exception in the Animal Protection Act that views bullfighting as a folk game. The groups have vowed to launch a petition drive to prevent the designation of bullfighting as a cultural heritage.

Civic group members hold a rally at the government complex in Seoul, Tuesday, against a move to designate bullfighting as a cultural heritage. Korea Times

Civic group members hold a rally at the government complex in Seoul, Tuesday, against a move to designate bullfighting as a cultural heritage. Korea Times

“Bullfighting is nothing but animal abuse and gambling,” they said in a statment. “The Cultural Heritage Administration must strive to unearth genuine heritage that will leave a lasting legacy, rather than promoting bullfighting, which is animal abuse.”

The increasing awareness and activism surrounding animal rights have prompted legislative changes and public discourse regarding animal welfare standards. This has challenged traditional practices involving animals, sparking debates about the ethical considerations of activities such as bullfighting.

The debate over bullfighting in Korea reflects a global conversation on the balance between preserving cultural traditions and ensuring the ethical treatment of animals, a debate that continues to evolve with cultural values and ethical standards.

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