Spain is considering halting sales of meat from bulls killed by matadors due to fears over mad cow disease.
The Agriculture Ministry, one of the agencies grappling with the Spanish chapter of Europe's latest mad cow scare, says it will make a decision before the bullfighting season begins in earnest in mid-March.
New European Union rules calling for mad cow tests on all cattle over 30 months of age that are slaughtered for human consumption also apply to bulls. Adult fighting bulls are usually four-years-old.
Under a proposal from fighting-bull breeders, the centuries-old tradition of selling carcasses of freshly killed bulls to butchers, who in turn pass the meat and other parts on to consumers, would make way for cremation. Besides the meat, Spaniards consume the bull's tail, ears and testicles.
Breeders, bullring owners and other industry sectors say they are willing to see sales of bull meat banned temporarily, until mad cow testing technology is made easier with a kit that can be used on live animals.
The industry wants the government to pay compensation of 60,000 pesetas, which is around £230, per slain bull, and talks with ministry officials will basically center on this demand.
No cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a brain-wasting illness with a fatal, incurable human equivalent, have been reported in Spain's bullfighting industry, although seven cases among cows have surfaced since November.
For toros, that would mean testing them right after they die in the arena. The problem is that so many are killed in a season - an estimated 11,000 in about 2,000 bullfights, and are held in portable bullrings in far-flung villages. Spain lacks the veterinary manpower to carry out tests on all those animals.