On Sunday, twenty thousand people marched through the streets of Madrid calling for an end to bullfighting.
Though also practiced in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Portugal, Spain is ground zero for this cruel tradition: An ancient tombstone discovered in Clunia in the Spanish province Burgos features an engraving of a bull facing an armed man.
With origins in prehistoric bull worship and sacrifice, bullfighting is one of the world's oldest blood sports.
Between the 1st and 4th centuries A.D., the Roman military practiced Mithraism, a mystery religion whose defining act was the killing of the sacrificial bull.
Today, bullfighting takes the lives of an estimated 30,000 bulls every year.
Speaking about the Sunday march, spokeswoman for the small anti-bullfighting political party PACMA Mireya Barbeto said, "In Madrid over 70 percent of the population rejects these acts of barbarism and torture, a national shame."
A 2006 Gallup poll showed that 72.1 percent of Spaniards were not interested in bullfights, a number which spiked to 81.7 percent for the 15-24 age group.
Esperanza Aguirre, Countess of Murillo, the president of Madrid's regional government holds the minority viewpoint.
On March 5, she announced plans to give legal protections to bullfighting by declaring it a part of the region's cultural heritage. Posing with a matador's cape, Aguirre said, "It's an art that has been in our culture as long as we can remember."
Last week, animal rights group El Refugio (The Shelter) launched a campaign to gather 50,000 signatures supporting a ban in the Madrid region.
The movement is gathering steam throughout the country. Earlier this month in the northeastern region of Catalonia, a petition armed with 180,000 signatures led to parliamentary hearings on a motion to outlaw bullfighting. If it passes, Catalonia will be the first region in Spain outside the Canary Islands to make bullfighting a crime.
Perhaps the pen really is mightier than the sword...or in the case of the Spanish matador, the estocada.
- Sign a Care2 petition urging Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to ban bullfighting in Spain
- Sign the World Society for Protection of Animals petition to ban bullfighting in Catalonia
- Sign the Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare
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