Bullfighting, even when it masquerades as celebration or tradition, is nothing more that the most egregious cruelty to animals. Frightened bulls are forced into an arena with screaming people, pitted against matadors wielding spears, and then stabbed multiple times before they die a slow, agonizing death. It is estimated that about 250,000 bulls are killed each year in bullfights around the world.

Spain first pops to mind when one mentions bullfighting, but this cruel “sport” has a long history and is well established in many countries, including – much closer to home – Mexico. The world’s largest bullfighting arena is in Mexico City, and each year, dozens of these spectacles are staged in front of Mexican audiences, including children.

That could change soon, however, because of a new bill introduced earlier this month in the Mexico City Congress by Congresswoman Leticia Varela and the local animal organization Frente Ciudadano Pro Derecho Animal. The bill amends Mexico City’s Public Spectacles and Animal Protection bills to ban any spectacle involving animal abuse and killing, including bullfighting and cockfighting, and it was quickly endorsed by three major parties in the local Congress. Humane Society International/Mexico was at the introduction ceremony to endorse the bill, and we will be campaigning, along with other groups, all the way for its passage.

HSI has been working against bullfighting in Mexico for many years now. Our campaign set off a vital debate over bullfighting in public and political platforms in Mexico, leading both to growing opposition and paving the road for a proposal to ban it. In 2013, Sonora became the first Mexican state to ban bullfights. The states of Guerrero and Coahuila followed in 2014 and 2015, respectively. HSI is also working to end the broadcasting of bullfighting shows on Mexican public television.

According to Parametría, a leading polling agency, 73 percent of Mexicans support a nationwide ban on bullfighting.

We are hopeful about the ban in Mexico City because the city’s new constitution adopted last year recognized animals as sentient beings and paved the way for ending animal cruelty in public spectacles. HSI/Mexico was heavily involved in crafting the animal protection language enshrined in the new constitution.

Mexico City lawmakers are also taking heed of a United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child report in 2015 that specifically pinpointed the damage caused to children by the cruelty of sports like bullfighting. The committee highlighted its concern about “the physical and mental well-being of children involved in the training of bullfighting, and performances associated with it, as well as the mental and emotional well-being of child spectators who are exposed to the violence of bullfighting." It urged Mexico to ban the participation of children in bullfighting training and performances, take measures to protect them in their capacity as spectators, and raise awareness of the physical and mental violence associated with bullfighting and its impact on children.

Even in Spain, citizens are increasingly rejecting the violence of bullfighting and other spectacles involving animal cruelty, and between 2011 and 2015, there was a 25 percent decline in the number of bull fiestas there.

As the new bill moves through the Mexico City Congress, HSI will be at the forefront. We have had some impressive wins worldwide when we have taken on animal cruelty masked as tradition, including in Mexico, where we successfully worked to end the cruel Kots Kaal Pato festival and ban dogfighting nationwide. With a growing tide of public opinion on our side, we can do so again.