In the South it's also the time for Féria, and I really don't like that. Not many people know that France even has bullfighting, never mind that it is now bigger here than in Spain. Spain is letting go of it, whilst the South of France is fiercely protecting it.
A loophole in French animal protection laws allows bullfighting to continue in the South as it can be classed as 'uninterrupted local tradition'. There are activists demonstrating against it, but they aren't making much headway.
Obviously we shun bullfights or 'la corrida' and steer clear of towns such as Nîmes, Béziers and Arles where they are a huge event and the high point of the year. Harder to avoid are the Taureau Piscine that take place in just about every village and town and are specifically positioned as family events aimed at children and young people.
These involve young female bulls - 'vachettes' - in a ring where there is a large paddling pool, various obstacles and youths scattered about to get the vachette worked up and in charging mood. Everyone has a jolly good laugh at the vachette slipping about in the water whilst the youths attempt to put rings on its horns or pull the tail etc. etc. All good clean fun, apparently. To me it seems like early training in encouraging animal cruelty.
I am trying to read up on the reasons why bullfighting is really an okay thing, as almost every local goes rather quiet when the subject comes up. They seem to like it. Support it. Promote it in tourist literature. Find it a positive, identity affirming, income producing event.
I can't find a single thing to convince myself that it is anything but barbaric and a sad indictment on the cowardly bloodlust of human nature. Maybe that's because I'm from a country that couldn't wait to outlaw fox hunting on animal cruelty grounds, never mind label it 'rich in tradtion'.
La Corrida may well produce revenue for the poor South of France but bullfighting fans are not confined to this part of the country.
Ex president M. Sarkozy is a keen fan, but careful not to attend in France lest it tarnish his image overseas. That doesn't particularly surprise me.
However, I was rather shocked to find that 80% of Marie Claire readers who responded to a survey were in favour of bullfighting. That's a young demographic and one that we would expect to endorse progress. Not here. The wine may be cheap and the sun may shine 300 days of the year but the bullfighting mind set reveals a darker side - at least to us - and would be one of the reasons we could turn our backs on the South.