Spanish matador gored to death in first death in the ring since 1985

Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.PHOTO: EPA
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.PHOTO: EPA
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9. PHOTO: EPA
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is carried out from the bullring after being gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.
Spanish bullfighter Victor Barrio is carried out from the bullring after being gored during a bullfight held on the occasion of Feria del Angel in Teruel, Spain, on July 9.PHOTO: EPA

MADRID (AFP) - A Spanish bullfighter was gored to death in front of horrified spectators at a corrida Saturday (July 9), the first to be killed in the ring in more than three decades.

Victor Barrio, 29, was struck in the chest by the massive bull who tossed him in the air before he fell to the ground, where he lay motionless after the graphic attack that was aired live on television.

Other matadors rushed to the rescue, trying to distract the 500kg bull before carrying Barrio from the ring in the eastern town of Teruel.

Barrio, who made his corrida debut in 2008 and toured rings all over the country, was pronounced dead at the scene, Tauroemocion, the organiser of the bullfight, told AFP.

Spanish President Mariano Rajoy Brey sent his sympathies after the death.

"My condolences to the family and colleagues of Victor Barrio, bullfighter who died in Teruel. Rest in peace," he wrote on Twitter.

The Plaza de Las Ventas bullfighting ring in Madrid also paid tribute to Barrio on Twitter.

"Distressed and affected. Rest in peace, Victor Barrio. All of us send our condolences to his team and to his family and friends," it posted on its feed along with photos of the slain bullfighter.

The last bullfighter to be killed in the ring was in 1985, according to Spanish media, when 21-year-old rising star Jose "El Yiyo" Cubero died after being gored through the heart.

Last year, prominent Spanish bullfighter Francisco "Paquirri" Rivera Ordonez was badly injured after being gored in the groin by a bull. His father was gored to death in Andalusia in 1984.

Bullfighting and related events have come under fire in recent years by animal rights activists who denounce the sport as cruel and dangerous.

El Pais newspaper said that in the past century, 134 people, including 33 matadors, had been killed by bulls in Spain.

But while the matador takes part in the spectacle by choice, the bull does not.

The bullfight - which is actually a highly ritualised performance with no element of competition - usually concludes with the killing of the bull by a single sword thrust by the matador.

Only on rare occasions, where both bull and matador perform exceptionally well, is the bull spared.

Several regions or cities have put a stop to corridas or annual festivals with bull running over the years.

Last month, animal rights party PACMA won a record number of votes in general elections.

The group has long campaigned for an end to bullfighting in a country increasingly torn between animal rights activists who support abolition, and others who want to keep an age-old tradition going.

According to official figures, 1,868 bull-related events were held in Spain in 2014.

Combined, they attracted six million spectators in a country of 47 million residents, according to ANOET, the national organisation that arranges such events, which said the "bull business" brings in 3.5 billion euros annually.