A Spanish tradition introduced in France in the 19th century, this ritualized fight, until death, between man and bull in an arena, very quickly took root in the Camargue (south), a region of plains and marshes in the Rhône delta, where bullfighting games already existed and where many Spaniards settled for economic or political reasons.

“The bull here, we have lived with it since we were very young”, first by going to see the bullfights in the street, then the Camargue races where the animal is not put to death and finally the bullfights , says Thomas Guzman, a 37-year-old mason, who regularly comes to help at the Blohorn “ganaderia”, a breeding of fighting bulls.

Along the Vaccarès pond and its flocks of pink flamingos, live on 600 hectares these animals of massive stature, in the middle of cows and “cabestros”, more playful bulls who calm their congeners by their presence.

At four or five years old, the fighting bulls will face the matadors in “garments of light” in the arenas and will for the most part find death at the end of what the defenders of bullfighting qualify as a “noble ritual”.

Its detractors, like the deputy La France Insoumise (LFI, radical left) from Paris Aymeric Caron, at the origin of a bill to abolish it which could be examined on Thursday, see it as “torture”.

When a bull is pardoned because of his gallantry, he returns to breeding until his natural death.

Patrick Alarcon is the “mayoral” of the “ganaderia” Blohorn, that is to say the chief intendant. For 39 years, he has been one of those “guardians” who work in the open air, most often on a Camargue white horse.

On this November morning, he feeds the animals, sometimes talks to them, from afar because of their dangerousness. He observes a bearing of the head, a gait, the curvature of the horns.

“If we abolish bullfighting, all this know-how will be lost. If I lose this job, I will be the most unhappy man in the world, what am I going to do?”

– “accept to see death” –

He also defends the role of these bulls – which need large spaces – to preserve the Camargue environment. About 6,000 fighting bulls live in the Camargue in about thirty farms.

Does he understand the concern of some animal advocates who decry the killing of the bull in this show? “It’s a race that is made to fight, the bull fights to the death”, he retorts.

Like many bullfighting enthusiasts in Arles, Patrick Alarcon believes that the bull takes on all its nobility during this fight against man, in an arena, far from the fate of the millions of animals taken away, out of sight, in industrial slaughterhouses for their meat.

“These animals also die, we don’t talk about them as much, and sometimes in not very nice conditions”, underlines Dalia Navarro for whom society “is finding it more and more difficult to accept seeing death. However, the corrida deals with death, an often taboo theme”.

This Arlesian founded Les Andalouses, a club bringing together enthusiasts of Sevillian dances and bullfighting, very active during the ferias, popular festivals bringing together thousands of people. “Here, even people who don’t go to bullfights are attached to it because the bull is part of the culture,” she insists.

At the bullfighting school, a dozen young people learn to bullfight, handling the bright red cape. On the sand of the arena, Mehdi Savalli, 37, a kid from Arles who became a professional matador, says he is ready to “defend” his passion “at all costs” against anti-corridas.

For him, the bull is like a “companion”. “I understand it’s something they’re not used to seeing but we feel something different. The only thing I have to say is leave us alone.”