With protesters picketing outside a packed arena, bullfights resumed in Mexico City on Sunday.
The return to the capital came after Mexico’s highest court temporarily revoked a local ruling that had sided with animal rights defenders and suspended the events for more than a year and a half.
The resumption of bullfights in the Plaza Mexico, the largest bullfighting arena in the world, raised the hopes of fans in the face of a legal battle.
Bullfighting is still allowed in much of Mexico, but in the capital it is fighting for its future. Opponents argue the practice violates animal welfare and affects people’s right to a healthy environment.
Thousands cheered the return of “fiesta brava”, as bullfighting is also known in Spanish. “Long live freedom,” some shouted as the first bull entered an arena jammed with spectators.
The first bullfighter to enter the ring was the renowned Mexican matador Joselito Adame. Six bulls were fought on Sunday. All were killed.
Outside, hours before the start of the event, about 300 people gathered in front of Plaza Mexico to protest.
Some activists yelled “Murderers!” and “The plaza is going to fall!” Others played drums or stood with signs reading “Bullfighting is sadism”.
Police with shields stood by. The protest was mainly peaceful, although there were some moments of tension when some activists threw plastic bottles and stones.
In May 2022, a local court ordered an end to bullfighting activities at Plaza Mexico in response to an injunction presented by the civil organisation Justicia Justa, which defends human rights. But the nation’s Supreme Court revoked the suspension in December while the merits of the case are discussed and a decision is reached on whether bullfights affect animal welfare.
Another civil organisation filed an appeal Friday on animal welfare grounds in a last-ditch effort to prevent the activity from resuming, but no ruling was delivered in time.
Animal rights groups have been gaining ground in Mexico in recent years while bullfighting followers have suffered several setbacks. In states such as Sinaloa, Guerrero, Coahuila, Quintana Roo and Guadalajara, judicial measures now limit the activity.
Ranchers, business owners and fans maintain that the ban affects their rights and puts at risk several thousand jobs. They say that bullfighting generates about $400m a year.
The National Association of Fighting Bull Breeders in Mexico estimates that bullfighting is responsible for 80,000 direct jobs and 146,000 indirect jobs.
The association has hosted events and workshops in recent years to promote bullfights and find new, younger fans.