MADRID (Reuters) - To a background of clashes between animal rights activists and participants, a Spanish fighting bull was stabbed to death with lances as the town of Tordesillas held its controversial annual festival on Tuesday.
The event had become the focus of demonstrations as opposition has grown to bull-fighting, Spain's traditional spectacle, and related events such as summer fiestas in which bulls are let loose in town and village streets.
During Tordesillas' "Toro de la Vega" (Bull of the Plain) event, hunters on horseback and on foot chase the bull through a pine forest before killing it. On Tuesday, the 640 kilo bull named "Rompesuelas", or "Floorbreaker", was stabbed by three different people and killed by a thrust to the back.
Chanting animal rights campaigners linked arms to line the streets of Tordesillas, in central Valladolid province, where the bull was due to run. A huge sign hung outside a block of flats in the town reading 'I have a right to my fiesta'.
Animal rights party PACMA collected 120,000 signatures calling for the event to be abolished and delivered them to Pedro Sanchez, the leader of the opposition Socialists, who hold town's mayorship.
El Pais newspaper called for the abolition of the event in an editorial on Monday.
"The torturing to death of an animal for entertainment is not a dignified tradition and gives a disgraceful image of Spain," the newspaper said.
Many of the new left-wing administrations in Spanish towns and regions that came to power after local elections in May have pulled subsidies from events involving bulls and are considering holding referendums on whether to continue with them.
More than 15,000 fiestas involving bull-running are held around Spain every year, especially in the summer months. This summer has been particularly dangerous, with at least a dozen runners killed.
The "corrida" itself - the formal spectacle in which a matador faces the animal in a bull-ring - has also come under sustained pressure from activists as well as from Spain's recent economic crisis.
(Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Angus MacSwan)