Bullfighting in Barcelona ends with Catalonia ban
Bullfighting fans in Catalonia have seen the last fights before a ban on the age-old tradition comes into effect in Spain's north-eastern region.
About 20,000 spectators filled Barcelona's famous Monumental arena, where top matadors performed.
Lawmakers voted for the ban last year - the first in mainland Spain - after 180,000 people signed a petition.
They say the bullfighting is barbaric, but opponents say they will challenge the ban in Spain's top court.Sell-out show
End Quote Critobal Corrida fan
For a city like Barcelona to close this arena is like throwing a Picasso painting into the garbage”
The ban takes effect on 1 January, but Sunday's fights in Catalonia were the last events of the 2011 season.
Spain's top three matadors performed at the arena on Sunday, including legendary Jose Tomas.
They killed six half-tonne bulls to loud shouts of "Ole!" of the fans.
After the last animal was killed, the crowd carried the three matadors on their shoulders out of the arena to the applause of onlookers.
"For a city like Barcelona to close this arena is like throwing a Picasso painting into the garbage," Cristobal, one of the fans at the Monumental, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Tickets for the historic bullfights in Barcelona sold out at record speed. They were trading on the black market for up to five times their original value, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Spain reports.
Many corrida (bullfighting) fans protested outside the arena, carrying posters which read "RIP" in blood-red letters and blowing whistles.
- Those taking part in the a bullfight are called toreros, while the person in charge of killing the bull is the matador de toros - killer of bulls
- Fighters can be awarded the bull's ears, tail or hooves as a trophy
- Barcelona's last bullring, the Monumental, stages 15 fights each year - each contest involves about six bulls
- Author Ernest Hemingway was an admirer of Spanish bullfighting and wrote about its rituals in 1932 in Death in the Afternoon
- The tradition dates back at least 4,000 years and is thought to have been popularised by the Romans
- It remains popular in southern France, Portugal and some South American countries
But such large crowds have been rare at the Barcelona bullring for some time, and this dwindling support is one reason the regional parliament voted in favour of banning the corrida, our correspondent adds.
She adds that there is also a growing awareness of animal rights and, crucially, the desire of Catalan nationalists to distinguish the region from the rest of Spain and its traditions.
Bullfighting is permitted in all other regions of Spain except in the Canary Islands, which banned it in 1991.
Campaigners hope to extend the ban across the country, but they face a far tougher task in traditional bullfighting heartlands like Andalucia and Madrid, our correspondent says.
She says many people there dismiss all talk of cruelty and argue that the corrida is an age-old art form that must be protected and preserved.