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Protesters lay down case on bloody disgrace of bullfights

About 100 almost naked anti-bullfighting campaigners lay down outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao at the weekend in a protest that coincided with the start of the northern Spanish city's annual bullfight festival.

The demonstration followed the Catalan parliament's decision last month to ban bullfighting in that region from 2012, outlawing the centuries-old spectacle for the first time in mainland Spain.

The activists from the animal welfare groups AnimaNaturalis, Equanimal and CAS International lay down in the shape of a bull, their bodies smeared with black or red paint to simulate blood.

"Catalonia has been the first Spanish region to ban bullfighting and will be an example for others," said Aida Gascon, director of AnimaNaturalis in Spain.

The Catalan move was seen as partly driven by separatist sentiment in a region which is keen to differentiate itself from Spain.

Bilbao is the main city in Spain's Basque Country, which also has a fervent separatist movement but a strong bullfighting tradition.