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Catalans shock Spain by banning bullfighting

In a tense, historic vote, Catalonia's regional parliament yesterday banned Spain's “national fiesta” — bullfighting, handing a victory to animal rights activists who predicted the start of a bloodless era across the country.

As of January 1, 2012, the choreographed estocada de muerte — or death knell — will be history throughout the wealthy, independent-minded region and the fighting bull — toro bravo — will receive protection under Catalonia's animal rights laws.

The 96-year-old Monumental bullring in Barcelona has already demanded over €300m (£250m) from the regional government to compensate for losses.

“Today five centuries of cruelty have come to an end,” said Elena Escoda, of the Catalan citizens' group Prou! (‘Enough!’), which lobbied for the ban. “From today onward, ethics must be considered a valid reason to question our traditions,” she went on.

The international association, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), also applauded the vote.

“The people have spoken,” the group said in a statement. “Cruelty to animals, disguised as tradition, will no longer be tolerated.” Politicians elsewhere in the land of banderilleros and sequined suits of lights have expressed fears that their regions could be the next target of animal rights groups.

The legislative offensive is a quantum leap from activists' previous protest-centred tactics or city-wide declarations against bullfighting. In anticipation of yesterday's vote, the government of Madrid — home to the emblematic Las Ventas bullring — even passed a law protecting the “cultural value” of bullfighting.

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Anyone violating the law, which includes tax breaks to bullfight organisers, could face fines of up to €1.2m.

Activists cheered and hugged as the votes were counted on a giant screen: 68 in favour of outlawing the matadors' manoeuvres to 55 against, with nine abstentions.

Nationalists, eager to distance themselves from bull-loving Madrid, overwhelmingly supported the ban, although most deputies were allowed to vote according to their consciences.

The despondent corrida crowd, which waved capes outside the parliament, immediately vowed to challenge the Catalan prohibition in the Spanish Supreme Court.

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