Colombia

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Legal Framework of Bullfighting and Societal Context in Colombia This essay provides an overview of the current situation and the legal framework regarding bullfighting in Colombia. The Spanish conquest of Latin America dramatically transformed cultural practices. Spanish heritage was brought with the colonization of the South American countries and with it the cultural practices of bullfighting that carries a strong element of tradition in the Hispanic culture. The evolution of laws and court decisions regarding bullfighting have been dramatically altered in recent years. Today, the position of the Colombian Constitutional Court is aimed at the abolishment of the practice. However, the Colombian Congress’ position regarding bullfighting is not as clear. Tradition has been one of the main arguments in the justification of bullfighting. However, it is important to understand that the current debate focuses on whether bullfighting should be regulated or abolished.
Sentencia C-041, 2017 Sentencia C-041 is one of the most important court decisions on bullfighting. On this occasion, the court held unconstitutional Article 5 of Ley 1774 of 2016 that referred to the Article 7 of the Statute of Animal Protection. Article 7 contains the seven activities that involve animals for entertainment that are exempted from the duty of animal protection. The practices permitted correspond to rejoneo, coleo, bullfighting, novilladas, corralejas, becerradas and tientas (all variations of bullfighting), cockfighting and all the related practices. Even though the court held that the legislature had fallen into a lack of constitutional protection towards animals, and stated that bullfighting was cruel and inhumane, it deferred the effects of its sentence and gave Congress a two-year period to decide whether bullfighting and the other exception established in Article 7 of the Statute of Animal Protection will continue to be legally allowed. If after this period, the Congress has not legislated on the matter, decision C-041, 2017 will take full effect and bullfighting along with all the practices established in Article 7 will be considered illegal.
Sentencia C-1192, 2005 Decision C-1192/05 decides on a claim of unconstitutionality against Articles 1, 2, 22 and 80 of the Taurine Regulatory Statute ley 916 of 2004. In this occasion, the court upheld the constitutionality of this law confirming bullfighting as an artistic expression allowed by the Constitution: “A manifestation of Colombia’s diversity, as intangible good that symbolizes one of the many historical-cultural traditions of the Nation.” The Court stated that since bullfighting is a cultural manifestation of the nation, children do not need to be protected from this practice. The Court believes “children should be provided the opportunity to attend these events so that they can learn and judge for themselves if bullfighting is an art form, or an outdated violent practice. For that reason, the statute does not violate the fundamental rights of children. The court also held that bullfighting is not part of the interpretation of Article 12 that corresponds to the prohibition of torture. The text of the norm speaks about violence and cruel treatment as an “anthropological vision of the human being” the court asserts. With this decision, the Constitutional Court affirms that animals, in this case bulls, are not entitled to any rights. The court considered tradition and culture of a higher value than animal protection.
Sentencia C-283, 2014 This is an unconstitutionality claim against Articles 1º, 2º and 3º of Ley 1638, 2013 that prohibit the use of native and exotic wild animals in circuses. Plaintiffs argued that these Articles violated numerous provisions of the Constitution, including the right to work, right to choose a profession, rights to culture and recreation, and a violation to the freedom private initiative of the owners of the circuses. In decision C-283, the court held that Congress has the power to prohibit certain cultural manifestations that involve animal cruelty. The Court stated that “culture needs to be permanently reevaluated so it can adapt to human evolution, to guarantee of rights and the fulfillment of duties. Especially when the purpose is to eliminate the traces of a marginalized society that has excluded certain individuals and collectives.” The court also stated that the duty to protect animals is not absolute, as its application can be limited by values, principles and constitutional norms in specific cases that are contradictory to the principales. The judge must analyze each case under a reasonableness test, in a way that cultural manifestations can work harmoniously with the rights, principles, and duties established in the legal system. The Court held Article 1 of Ley 1638, 2013 constitutional, and refrains from deciding on the constitutionality of Articles 2 and 3, for lack of evidence to render a decision.
Sentencia C-439, 2011 This is an unconstitutionality claim against Article 87 of Ley 769, 2002 (Trafic Code), relating the transportation of animals on vehicles of public transportation. Article 87 of Ley 769, established that only guide dogs could travel in this type of transportation when accompanying a blind person. The Plaintiff argued that this Article, which prohibited the transportation of animals on vehicles like buses and taxis, violated the right to equality, rights to personal and family privacy, right to free development of personality, freedom of locomotion, and private property. The court concluded that there was a violation to the right to free development of personality, freedom to locomotion, and to private property of the owners of domestic animals. The court added domestic animals as an exception to article 87, of Ley 769, meaning that this prohibition still remains for specimens of the wild fauna. Domestic animals now can travel on vehicles of public transportation, so long they are transported in conditions of health, safety, comfort and tranquility according to the applicable rules. The court also considered that a pertinent regulation was necessary to establish the requirements to transport animals on public vehicles.
Sentencia C-467/16
Sentencia C-666, 2010 The Constitutional Court decided on an unconstitutionality claim against Article 7 of the Statute of Animal Protection Ley 84 of 1989 that corresponds to the exceptions to the duty of animal protection. This decision established the conditions that must be met for the exceptions of Article 7 to apply. Put in different words, through Decision C-666, the court limits the scope of the legality of bullfighting, establishing certain requirements. In its holding, the Court stated that the seven practices in Article 7 would not violate the Constitution, so long as they were done within the following parameters: (1) As long as it is understood that these animals should, in all cases, obtain special protection against suffering and pain during the execution of these activities. This exception allows the continuation of cultural expressions and entertainment with animals, so long as exceptionally cruel acts against these animals are eliminated, or lessened in the future in a process of adaptation between cultural expressions and duties of protection to animals; (2) These practices can only take place in municipalities and districts in which the practices are themselves a manifestation of a regular, periodic and uninterrupted tradition, and therefore their execution responds to a certain regularity; (3) These practices can only take place during occasions in which they have commonly taken place and in the municipalities and districts where they are authorized; (4) These are the only practices that are authorized to be part of the exception in Article 7 to the constitutional duty to protect animals; and (5) Municipal authorities cannot economically support the construction of installations for the exclusive execution of the activities listed in Article 7 with public funds.
Sentencia C-889, 2012 Decision C-889 grants constitutional value to animal protection. It establishes the parameters for tradition and social roots. It limits the scope of bullfighting in the national territory. On this opportunity, the court decided on the constitutionality of Arts. 14 and 15 of the statute of Bullfighting Statute. It establishes the criteria that must be met in order for bullfighting to be legal: (1) Bullfighting has to meet the legal conditions established for public shows in general; (2) Bullfighting must meet the legal conditions established in the statute that regulates the taurine activity, Ley 916 of 2014; and (3) Bullfighting must comply with the constitutional conditions, restrictions, and limitations established in decision C-666 of 2010 to satisfy the mandate of animal welfare, animal protection, and to avoid suffering and pain. It must also satisfy social ingrain, location, opportunity, the condition of no financial funds, and exceptionality.
Sentencia de Tutela Juzgado 3 de Bucaramanga de 25 de julio de 2017 This is the first time an animal, more specifically a dog, filed a lawsuit seeking that the government grant protection for the dog’s rights to life and health. The judge denied the action of "tutela" filed by the dog ("Negro") based on the definition of person given by the civil code. As a result, the judge concluded that "Negro" was not a person and therefore was not entitled to have rights. However, there is a possibility that the Constitutional Court on appeal will grant the plaintiff the rights he is seeking based on Decision T-622 de 2016, where the court declared that a river was subject to rights that guarantee its protection, conservation, maintenance, and restoration, and that the government was the main guarantor of these rights.
Sentencia T-095, 2016 In this decision, the court drew a line between the concept of animal welfare and the concept of animal rights. The court continues to see animal protection from a moral perspective when it states animals do not necessarily have rights, even though they should be treated with respect and should not be abused. The Plaintiff brought an action of ‘tutela’ (Constitutional mechanism that is preferential and summary, created for the sole purpose of protection of fundamental rights) against ‘la Personería Local of Fontibón’, the local Mayor’s office of Fontibon, the District Secretary of Health, the Zoonosis Center and the Distril Secretary of the environment of Bogota. The Plaintiff argued that these governmental entities had violated his fundamental right to petition and the right to animal welfare of twenty five dogs, when the authorities ordered the confiscation the canines that were located in the District Ecological Park of the Wetland of Capellanía and who were cared for by volunteers. The Plaintiff argued that the Defendants did not respond to his request to provide funds to build a shelter and provide food and veterinary assistance of the dogs or funds to relocate them. The Plaintiff sought a response from governmental authorities on the petition and to provide the funds to save the animals, thereby avoiding the Zoonosis Center to assume their care, who would euthanize the sick animals that were not adopted after five days of being up for adoption.

The lower court denied the protection of the fundamental right to petition, as it found that the authorities responded to the petition of the Plaintiff in a clear and timely matter by denying the request to fund the Plaintiff to relocate the dogs or build a shelter for them. In regards to the right to animal welfare, the lower court considered it was a legal rather than a constitutional issue, therefore the action of ‘tutela’ was not the appropriate mechanism as its purpose is to guarantee the protection of fundamental rights.

The court held that there was a constitutional duty of animal protection that derives from the duty to protect the environment. However, this duty to guarantee the well-being of animals as sentient beings is not absolute and may be subject to exceptions. The court determines that the mandate to protect the environment, which includes sentient beings, does not translate into a right to animal welfare, and for that reason such duty is not enforceable through an action of tutela. The duty to protect animals presumes an obligation to care and prohibits maltreatment and cruelty against animals, unless these actions come from one of the limits stipulated in the constitution. The court affirmed the lower court decision to deny the protection to the right to petition and declared the inadmissibility of the action of tutela for the protection of animal welfare.

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