Spanish bullfighting supporters on offensive after ban

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The Spanish bullfighting world on Sunday defended the right to attend the competitions at the first such event in Barcelona since the Catalan region voted to ban the practice from 2012.

"We demand respect for the individual freedom to take part in a spectacle that is the expression of our culture and of our traditions," said a manifesto read out shortly before the event began.

"Bullfighting professionals reject the Catalan parliament's decision.... We demand an end to the political manipulation of the (bullfighting) fiesta and we demand a guarantee of our right to work," it said.

The manifesto was to be read out at all Spanish bullfighting events on Sunday, at the behest of pro-bullfighting group La Mesa del Toro, as well as in France and Portugal.

The Spanish bullfighting milieu as well as the conservative opposition say that bullfighting has been hijacked by Catalan nationalists who banned the practice because it is seen as a symbol of Spain.

Catalonia on Wednesday became the first part of mainland Spain to ban the centuries-old tradition, after it was outlawed on the Canary Islands in 1991.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said that his government would have "preferred" that Catalonia not outlaw bullfighting, but added that the issue should not be politicised.

A poll published Sunday said that 60 percent of Spaniards do not care for bullfighting, but nearly as many -- 57 percent -- oppose its banning in Catalonia.

© 2010 AFP

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