Lisbon bars child matador from main bullring

Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:10am EDT
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LISBON (Reuters Life!) - Lisbon's child protection commission has barred 11-year-old Mexican bullfighting sensation Michelito from performing at Portugal's largest bullring of Campo Pequeno after pressure from animal rights groups.

The commission's officials said on Friday Michelito Lagravere's medical certificate was not in order, which prevented him from appearing at the 10,000 capacity bullring on Thursday, but they also cited risks involved for the child.

They said the young bull he had been due to tackle was "disproportionately" heavier than the part-French, part-Mexican prodigy, although it is not uncommon for children to appear in the bullrings across Portugal.

Calves accepted at the bullring can weigh up to 260 kg. Portuguese bullfighting rules ban the killing of the bull in the ring, but it remains a bloody spectacle as the animal's skin is pierced with numerous "bandarilha" darts.

Miguel Moutinho, head of the animal rights protection association, told Reuters the commission's decision followed his association's complaint and expected another ban on Michelito's appearance at Portalegre near the Spanish border on Saturday.

"Evidently this was a response to our denouncement over concern with the risks involved for the child, and we hope the other performance will be banned too," he said.

Michelito, who started his career at the age of four, trained by his former bullfighting French father, has appeared in numerous bullfights in Mexico and Peru. In January, he killed six calves in a single fight in Merida, Mexico.

(Reporting by Andrei Khalip, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>A Spanish bullfighter looks at the sky before starting a bullfight in The Maestranza bullring in Seville April 25, 2009. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo</p>