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Catalonia votes to ban bullfighting

Catalonia has become Spain's first mainland area to outlaw bullfighting after a heated debate at the regional Parliament in Barcelona.

Cheers broke out in the 135-seat legislature after the speaker announced the ban had passed by a vote of 68 to 55 with nine abstentions. The ban will take effect in 2012.

The centre-right Popular Party, which backs the idea of Spain as a unified country run from Madrid - and also supports bullfighting - said it is considering a legal challenge to overturn the ban.

Barcelona contains Catalonia's only functioning bullring. It plays host to 15 fights a year but they are rarely sold out. There are about 1,000 bouts each season across the whole of Spain.

The first Spanish region to outlaw bullfighting was the Canary Islands, in 1991. But fights were never popular there and when the ban took effect there had not been a bullfight for seven years.

Protesters from both camps had rallied outside the Parliament of Catalonia building before the debate started..

Bullfighting opponents carried posters with pictures of bleeding animals. One man covered in fake red blood carried a sign in English, "Stop animal cruelty, No more blood."

Pro-bullfighting groups displayed signs painted on the red and yellow Catalan flag, with slogans such as Libertad y Toros (Freedom and bulls).

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