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Hemingway turns over in grave as last Catalonian bullfight takes place

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The last bullfight in Spain's autonomous, northeastern region of Catalonia takes place Sunday evening, after a signature-collection campaign by animal-rights activists led the Catalan Parliament to ban the "sport" in July of 2010. A sold-out crowd at Barcelona's 20,000-seat Monumental arena will witness the final event of the season before the ban goes into effect on January 1, 2012.

The popularity of bullfighting in Catalonia has declined in recent decades, but while opponents of the sanguinary pastime talk about animal cruelty, others see the ban as a diss of Spain by independence-minded Catalans. And there may be something to that: the same politicians who voted for the ban voted a couple months later to keep the tradition of the correbous, or "bull run," in which bulls are let loose in village streets at night with torches attached to their horns and are tied to posts and taunted. (I guess that beats getting stabbed, but still.)

Catalonia is only the second of Spain's seventeen regions, along with the Canary Islands, to ban bullfighting. The centuries-old tradition of grace and machismo (although some of those matador get-ups would belie that) started to lose popularity after the death of Franco and the drafting of a new constitution in 1978, and growing Catalan nationalism led to nose-thumbing at things considered Spanish. 

Of course, there are many protesting the ban, and Spain's conservative Popular Party has already appealed the ban before the Constitutional Court. Carlos Nunez, president of Spain's pro-bullfighting group, Mesa del Toro, said, "Banning bullfighting in Catalonia is nothing more than an attack on liberty. It's the fruit of policies in Catalonia against bullfighting and all that is seen to represent Spain."

Just like the new NFL rules designed to mitigate injuries to players, the Catalonian bullfighting ban seeks to move away from what many perceive as barbaric practices. Some see these moves as sort of cultural versions of helicopter parenting, while others see it as progress. Like the issue of whether live, boiled lobsters feel pain, the argument about the ethics of bullfighting won't be resolved anytime soon.