Madrid matadors gored by bulls at festival launch

Antonio Nazare (20 May 2014) Image copyright AP
Image caption Matador Antonio Nazare was the second matador to be wounded at the San Isidro festival launch

A major event in Madrid's bullfighting season had to be cancelled after all three matadors were gored by bulls.

David Mora suffered the worst injuries, as one of the animals rammed its horn into his leg and tossed him into the air at the Las Ventas bullring.

He was said to be in a serious but no longer life-threatening condition.

The organisers of the prestigious San Isidro festival said it was the first time in 35 years that the event had had to be suspended.

About 2,000 bullfights are still held every year in Spain, but the numbers are falling. In 2010, Catalonia became the second Spanish region after the Canary Islands to ban the tradition.

Opponents describe the blood-soaked pageants as barbaric, while fans - including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy - say the tradition is an ancient art form deeply rooted in national history.

'Horrific, shocking, chilling'

Mr Mora, who opened the programme, fell to the ground after being knocked over by a 532kg (1,172lb) bull.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Moments after David Mora opened the event...
Image copyright AP
Image caption ... he was tossed in the air in front of shocked spectators at Las Ventas

A shocked crowd watched in horror as he was gored and thrown through the air. Mr Mora sustained a large gash in his thigh and another in his armpit, bullring officials said.

Spanish newspaper El Pais described the somersault as "horrific, shocking, chilling".

The second matador, Antonio Nazare, injured his knee when a bull dragged him along the sand in the bullring. And the final headlining act, Jimenez Fortes, was skewered in the right leg and the pelvis.

Both men were treated for their injuries and due to be released from hospital on Wednesday.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Matador Jimenez Fortes sustained injuries to his right leg and pelvis
Image copyright AP
Image caption Bullfighting opponents say the tradition is barbaric

Bullfighting dates back at least 4,000 years and is thought to have been popularised by the Romans.

The corrida, as it is known, is still permitted in a majority of Spanish regions despite growing criticism.

Last year, Spain's congress granted the tradition cultural heritage status in order to protect it from further bans.

The move was condemned by international animal welfare groups.

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