Spain's Catalonia To Ban Bullfighting

Advocates of the ban called the practice barbaric, but opponents say it is part of Spain's cultural heritage and see the move as an assertion of Catalan independence.

The independence-minded region of Catalonia on Wednesday became the first on the Spanish mainland to outlaw bullfighting, a move some say is as much about nationalist politics as animal rights.

Lawmakers in Catalonia's regional parliament approved the controversial ban, 68-55, with nine abstentions, after emotional speeches that mixed expressions of support for preserving tradition with denunciations of bullfighting as institutionalized cruelty.

The ban will take effect in the region, of which Barcelona is the capital, in 2012, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Animal rights groups seeking bans in other parts of Spain or abroad were energized by the vote.

"The suffering of animals in the Catalan bullrings has been abolished once and for all. It has created a precedent we hope will be replicated by other democratic parliaments internationally, in those regions and countries where such cruel bullfights are still allowed," said Leonardo Anselmi of PROU, the animal rights group whose signature-collecting campaign last year forced Catalonian lawmakers to debate and vote, according to The Associated Press.

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