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Thousands of animal rights activists gather in Madrid to protest bullfighting

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - JULY 13:  Bullfighter Juan Jose Padilla performs with a Fuente Ymbro's fighting bull on the eighth day of the San Fermin Running Of The Bulls festival on July 13, 2013 in Pamplona, Spain. The annual Fiesta de San Fermin, made famous by the 1926 novel of U.S. writer Ernest Hemmingway "The Sun Also Rises," involves the running of the bulls through the historic heart of Pamplona, this year for nine days from July 6-14.  (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - JULY 13: Bullfighter Juan Jose Padilla performs with a Fuente Ymbro's fighting bull on the eighth day of the San Fermin Running Of The Bulls festival on July 13, 2013 in Pamplona, Spain. The annual Fiesta de San Fermin, made famous by the 1926 novel of U.S. writer Ernest Hemmingway "The Sun Also Rises," involves the running of the bulls through the historic heart of Pamplona, this year for nine days from July 6-14. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

Thousands of animal rights activists have gathered in Madrid to demand an end to Spain's long tradition of bullfighting.

Animal rights political party Pacma called for Saturday's protest, which went through central Madrid including major tourist sites. Crowds chanted "less violence and more intelligence," and "torture is not culture."

The protest is part of a growing tension between progressives who see the practice as a blatant form of animal cruelty and traditionalists who defend it as part of Spain's culture.

At least 17 Spanish cities and towns have cut municipal funding for bullfights and bull runs, or passed legislation condemning or banning it since the new leftist party Podemos won its first seats in local and regional elections a year ago.

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