For centuries, bullfighting has formed part of the very essence of Spain.
But the debate over cruelty is gathering momentum and leading to increasing calls from animal rights activists for the activity to be banned.
Now, supporters and opponents have locked horns in the Catalan parliament.
The debate was triggered by a 180 thousand signature petition calling for a ban.
“This is designed to remain stuck in the flesh, tearing muscle fibre. Does this not hurt?” asked scientist Jorge Wagensburg.
“If you knew more about bullfighting, you would understand it better. I would like the issue to be discussed without hysteria and with respect.” countered bullfighter Jose Miguel Arroyo.
Animal rights groups and campaigners cite a 2006 poll which showed that 72.1 percent of Spaniards were not interested in bullfighting, a proportion which rose to over 80 percent for those aged 15-24.
The next step in the process is for a report to be drawn up, after which the proposal could be voted on before the summer.