By JOSEPH WILSON and DANIEL WOOLLS
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Lawmakers in Catalonia outlawed bullfighting Wednesday, making it Spain's first major region to ban the deadly, centuries-old ballet between matador and beast after heated debate that pitted animal rights against a pillar of traditional culture.
Cheers broke out in the local 135-seat legislature after the speaker announced the ban had passed 68-to-55 with nine abstentions. The ban will take effect in 2012 in the northeastern coastal region whose capital is Barcelona.
The practical effect of the ban will be limited: Catalonia has only one functioning bullring, in Barcelona, while another disused one is being turned into a shopping mall. It stages 15 fights a year which are rarely sold out, out of a nationwide total of roughly 1,000 bouts per season.
Still, bullfighting buffs and Spanish conservatives have taken the drama very seriously, seeing a stinging anti-Spanish rebuke in the grass roots, anti-bullfighting drive which started in the region last year.
The first Spanish region to outlaw bullfighting was the Canary Islands, in 1991. But fights were never that popular there and when the ban took effect there had not been a bullfight for seven years. That makes the Catalonia vote a much more potent case, even if bullfighting is not as popular there as it is in Madrid or down south in Andalusia.
What do you think? Will the rest of Spain follow? Should it?