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Bullfighting ban sees Catalan matadors take final bow

It was once thought to be as ingrained in Spanish culture as tapas and flamenco, but Catalonia yesterday held its final bullfight, becoming the first mainland region to outlaw the spectacle and — animal rights activists hope — signalling the decline of the corrida.

Nearly 20,000 people packed into Barcelona's one remaining ring, the El Monumental, last night for a final sold-out corrida featuring the top matadors Jose Tomas, Juan Mora, and Serafin Morin, ahead of a ban coming into force in 2012.

Once championed by the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and Pablo Picasso, the bloody pastime is now a victim of a growing sympathy towards the long-suffering bull, a recession-hit populace with little money to spend on bullfighting tickets and indifference among the young to the age-old tradition.

Recent polls show more than 60% of Spaniards now express a dislike for bullfighting, although only half of those are in favour of outright prohibition.

“It's a big step forward. It doesn't just give us hope we can widen the ban across Spain, either. Bullfighting bans are now in force in parts of Venezuela, too,” said Antonio Moreno, president of the animal rights association CACMA who defended the ban in a Catalan parliamentary commission in 2010.

Bullfighting supporters argue that the Catalonia ban — passed in the regional parliament in 2010 — does not reflect a growing nationwide distaste for the spectacle, but a wish by local nationalists, within the region, to differentiate themselves from “traditional” Spain. The only other ban in force is in the Canary Islands, where the spectacle has been outlawed since the early 1990s.

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