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.