Times 2

Death of the bullfight

It is a sport that has come to symbolise Spain - but from this weekend it may come to represent political divisions in the country. This weekend Catalonia becomes the first region on the Spanish mainland to ban bullfighting.

Barcelona's famous bullring El Monumental will host its final bullfight on Sunday evening in front of 20,000 spectators. While some see this as a victory for animal rights activists, there are those who say the ban is politically motivated as the region strives for autonomy.

Spanish matador Daniel Luque performs at Las Ventas bullring in Madrid, which holds 350 bullfights a year

Jose Tomas, 36, the country's most popular matador, will perform at his favourite bullring, drawing to close almost 100 years of history in the impressive building. Catalonia's regional government voted in July last year to ban bullfighting on the grounds it is outdated and cruel, in response to demands from animal rights activists.

Supporters of bullfighting accused Catalan nationalists of hijacking the anti-bullfighting campaign for political purposes, to highlight their independence from Madrid. They point out that other popular events involving bulls, called 'correbous', still take place legally in Catalonia, one of 17 autonomous regions in Spain.And they hope to overturn the ban on bullfighting on constitutional grounds.

The historic vote was sparked when campaign group Prou! ('Enough!' in Catalan) collected 180,000 signatures calling for a ban in the north-eastern region. Celebrities including Pamela Anderson and Ricky Gervais backed the bid to outlaw the practice. The parliamentary debate was closely fought, with 68 votes for the ban, 55 against and nine abstentions. The law comes into force on 1 January next year.

(©Daily Mail, London)

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