End of a Bloody Era: Both Outrage and Celebration Mark Catalonia’s Last Bullfight

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Catalans bid farewell to one of the oldest Spanish traditions Sunday, when matadors baited bulls for the last time at La Monumental arena in Barcelona.

With the imminent ban on bullfighting in Catalonia next year, this past weekend’s fight marked not only the end of the 2011 season, but also the last time a bull may be killed for sport in Spain’s northeastern region. The country’s top three matadors including José Tomás and Juan Mora, performed in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,000 people, killing six half-tonne bulls.

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Animal rights activists rejoiced, protesting outside the arena and calling the ban a victory while supporters of bullfighting claimed the decision came with political motivation. Serafin Marin, the third matador who was bestowed the honor of killing the last bull, criticized the ban as a symbol of Catalan nationalists separating from Spain, the Daily Telegraph reports.

“For a city like Barcelona to close this arena is like throwing a Picasso painting into the garbage,” a 68-year-old fan, Cristobal, told the AFP. For over six centuries, bullfighting, considered a beloved pastime and cultural symbol, is seen as an art rather than a sport.

But crowds dwindled before Barcelona’s grand finale,  with the number of bullfights falling by a third of what it was in 2007, according to the New York Times. The shrinking industry solidified protestors’ argument to outlaw the practice, and is ultimately  attributed to the decision of next year’s ban.

Although the ban brings an end to the blood sport, Catalonia still allows bull-related cruelty including the “correbous,” in which a bull with flaming torches bound to its horns is chased down streets.

The owner of La Monumental along with promoters and breeders across the country are expected to file a suit against Catalan officials, according to the Telegraph. 

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