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Activists clash with riot police at French bullfight

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Activists clash with riot police at French bullfight
Riot police in Rodhilan
10:26 CET+01:00
Riot police were forced to intervene to keep the peace in a French village on Sunday after animal rights campaigners tried to prevent a bullfight from taking place. Similar protests two years had descended into violence when demonstrators were attacked by spectators.

Riot police on Sunday forcefully dispersed some 750 animal-rights activists attempting to prevent spectators from attending a bullfight in southern France.

The protesters had blocked the entrance to the bullfighting arena in Rodilhan, a town near Nimes, carrying banners reading "Bullfighting - Not Art or Culture/Sadism and Torture" and pictures of bloodied bulls.

Several protesters were detained as they were cleared by police but there were no reports of major injuries.

Bullfighting is banned in most of France but is allowed in some southern regions where it is protected as part of local traditions.

In a statement on Twitter, one of the groups organising the protest, CRAC Europe, called for local referendums and a vote in France's National Assembly on banning bullfighting throughout the country.

"If nothing happens because of a lack of political will, we will go all the way to stop the massacre of innocents," the group said.

The ranks of the protesters were swelled by a delegation of animal rights campaigners who had flown in the from the United States to take part in the demo.

“This does not fit in with the image of France that we love. Nowhere on the French Tourism website is there any mention of the cruel blood sport of bullfighting," Carole Davis from Friends of Animals told The Local on Friday.

"It’s a tradition that needs to be abolished, like slavery was.”    

Davis says 40 California school children have also sent letters to the mayor of Rodilhan and the French ambassador in Washington DC, asking them to “stop the killing.”    

Serious clashes between animal-rights activists and bullfighting fans broke out during a similar protest in Rodilhan in October 2011, when about 60 protesters ran into the ring during a bullfight. (see video)

Animal-rights groups have long campaigned to have the practice banned throughout the country but last year France's top court ruled that a ban would be unconstitutional.

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