Image: Anti-bullfighting protest
Olivier Hoslet  /  EPA
Activists demonstrate against bullfighting near the European parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday. They're calling for the EU to stop aiding the industry.
updated 10/9/2008 4:37:44 PM ET 2008-10-09T20:37:44

Animal-rights activists staged a topless protest outside the European Parliament on Thursday, demanding the European Union ban bullfighting and stop aiding the industry in Spain, France and Portugal.

Some 20 men and women lay down on the sidewalk outside the EU assembly, covered in fake blood with colorful pica spears sticking out of their backs, to highlight their opposition to bullfighting.

Protesters hoped to put new pressure on lawmakers at the European Parliament to push for a Europe-wide ban on bullfighting, which still remains popular in southern Europe.

There were 2,622 bullfights held in Spain alone last year, involving a total of 12,167 bulls.

Lauren Bowey from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said farmers and fight organizers get some $27.4 million in EU handouts a year.

"We think European taxpayers have the right to know where their money goes to and it goes to support bullfighting, an industry that is bloody, barbaric and should be relegated to the dark ages," Bowey said.

Animal-rights advocates say the EU aid and local subsidies are keeping the bullfighting industry alive. The EU also subsidizes other aspects of the sport, such as bullfighting arena renovations.

EU spokesman Michael Mann disputed allegations that EU money was being used to directly fund bullfighting, saying it was up to member states to decide how farm subsidies are spent.

"It is entirely up to the farmers to decide what they produce," Mann said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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