"There are some traditions that can't remain frozen in time as society changes," Jose Rull, member of parliament for the Catalonian Nationalist Party, Ciu, said.

"We don't have to ban everything, but the most degrading things should be banned."

Catalan 'independence'

The ban of the centuries-old tradition will take effect in 2012, closing Barcelona's last bullring, La Monumental.

Tim Friend, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Barcelona, said the vote was a sign of the growing gulf between the Catalan region and the rest of the nation.

"The divide between some of the regions in Spain and Madrid, the capital, has been increasing in recent year, and this is an example," he said.

"The Catalans who would like to declare independence recently had a setback in the Constitutional Court about being able to declare themselves as a separate nation.

"So the bullfighting vote become kind of symbolic to that extent."

But Joan Puigcercos, a politician from a Catalan pro-independence party, insisted the vote was not about national identity but "the suffering of the animal. That is the question, nothing more".

"We have a responsibility that goes beyond the borders of Catalonia. It is a responsibility to civilisation," he said.

Wednesday's move follows the lead of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, which made bullfighting illegal in 1991.

Groups of supporters and opponents of bullfighting gathered outside the parliament building as the vote was taking place.

"Stop animal cruelty," read the signs of the anti-bullfighting crowd while those in favour of the practice said: "Bulls yes, freedom yes".

The centre-right Popular Party has said it is considering filing a lawsuit to overturn the decision.