Spain’s Catalonia bids farewell to bullfighting

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Animal rights activists, meanwhile, are triumphant.

“It’s like a crack has developed in the armor plating (of bullfighting). It’s a small crack, but the protective shield might crumble altogether,” said Leonardo Anselmi, a key promoter of the Catalan prohibition.

Catalonia is the second of Spain’s 17 regions to ban bullfighting. The Canary Islands outlawed the practice in 1991, although it had never been a popular tradition there.

For the moment, however, there are no signs any other Spanish region will follow suit.

The practice was once immensely popular in Barcelona and other Catalan towns, but its decline began with the end of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco in 1978 and the subsequent rise in Catalan nationalism and a rejection of things deemed Spanish.

But critics say the hypocrisy of banning bullfighting in the name of animal rights was shown up when months after the ban, Catalonia passed other legislation protecting the “correbous,” a typical Catalan town festival event in which flaming balls of wax or fireworks are attached to the horns of bulls that are then taunted and teased by rowdy crowds in bullrings or town squares.

Spain’s ancient fascination with bulls — and with using the animals as a test of bravery — is still very much a part of the national identity. Bullfights and related events, such as the annual San Fermin Pamplona bull-runs, make up a multimillion-dollar industry and draw many tourists.

But modern times and the economic crisis have nevertheless hit the tradition hard, and surveys consistently show most Spaniards have no interest in bullfighting.

In an article headlined “The Fiesta Is Ending,” leading newspaper El Pais highlighted that changing tastes and economic difficulties, particularly in small towns, have led to a 34 percent drop in the number of bull-related festival events, from 2,622 to 1,724 between 2007 and 2010.

In January, Spain’s leading broadcaster said it would no longer show live bullfights in order to protect children from viewing violence.

Ciaran Giles contributed to this report from Madrid.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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