TORDESILLAS, Spain (AP) — Men on horseback in a Spanish town chased down a bull and speared it to death Tuesday during the annual Toro de la Vega festival — a tradition reviled by animal rights activists, who turned out by the hundreds to protest.
Scuffles broke out between activists and the festival's more numerous supporters before the bull, weighing more than half a ton, was set loose in the north-central town of Tordesillas.
The activists also staged a sit-down protest but scattered, along with festival supporters, when the bull was released and headed toward them before being driven to a field.
The bull-spearing event has been held for centuries and supporters defend it as an important historical tradition.
The person credited with killing the bull usually gets a medal and a young man was initially hailed as the winner.
But Tordesillas Mayor Jose Antonio Gonzalez said later that judges observing the event decided no one would get the award this year.
The judges found three violations of the spearing event's rules: The bull was killed by more than one person, it was speared from behind and it died outside the designated area where it was supposed to be killed.
Rules specify the person who spears the bull first must finish it off.
In 2012, there was no winner because the bull was killed outside the designated area.
Spain's opposition Socialist Party plans to introduce an animal cruelty bill to parliament next year that would prohibit the bull spearing event, said Antonio Hernando, the party's parliamentary spokesman.
But Justice Minister Rafael Catala said Spain already has animal cruelty laws and defended the event as a "historic and cultural tradition."
Catala is a member of the governing Popular Party, which holds a majority in parliament but faces a general election in December.
In Tordesillas, wine maker Beatriz Alvarez defended the festival as a tradition that generates jobs to serve the thousands who attend the event and said a small group of opponents is to blame for bad publicity.
"If you don't like it, don't come," said Alvarez, 42.
Protester Yolanda Brezos of Barcelona carried a toy bull in Tordesillas, which is about 190 kilometers (118 miles) northwest of Madrid, and made herself up with fake blood streaming from her eyes.
"I have the words taken away from me seeing that human beings the same as you living in the same age as you can enjoy the suffering of a living being," said Brezos, an unemployed office worker.
Alan Clendenning reported from Madrid.