MADRID (AP) — A regional government in Spain outlawed Thursday the killing of bulls at town festivals in a measure that likely will stop the animals being speared to death at one of the country's goriest summer events.
Though it won't affect bullfights, the decision by the Castile and Leon government looks set to end bull killing at the region's annual Toro de la Vega festival in Tordesillas, where men on horseback chase down a bull and spear it in front of onlookers.
The centuries-old event about 200 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of Madrid has drawn increasing protests in recent years, with animal rights activists denouncing it as cruel and calling for a ban.
Spain's Pacma animal rights political party cheered the decision, tweeting that "the deadly spears of Toro de la Vega are broken!" Supporters of the festival said they would take unspecified actions to try to defend it.
Regional lawmakers still must vote to approve the decree, but the government has a majority in the legislature to virtually ensure it passes into law for Castile and Leon.
The regional government's move came amid growing tension between Spain's anti-bullfighting groups and those who fiercely defend the tradition.
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the far-left Podemos party which finished third in last December's national elections, praised the decision, tweeting that "The Toro de la Vega festivities humiliate our country's dignity." He wants to end government funding for bull spectacles, but says he wouldn't ban bullfights.
The vice president of the Toro de la Vega organizing committee, Ramon Muelas, said Tordesillas would "fight for its dearest traditions" and warned that the government measure "could end in conflict." Any official voting in favor of the law would not be welcome in Tordesillas, he told Spanish news agency Europa Press.
Spain's Fighting Bull Foundation which represents breeders, matadors, ring workers, groups of aficionados with thousands of members and bull event organizers said it was examining the proposed law and planned to issue a response later.
Barry Hatton reported from Lisbon, Portugal.