30/04/2012 07:19 BST

Bullfighting In Mexico: Politicians Due To Vote On Bill Banning Bloodthirsty Sport (PICTURES)

Politicians in Mexico are due to vote on whether to ban bullfighting in the country, which has a 500-year-old tradition of the controversial sport.

The sport, brought to the Latin American nation by Spanish conquistadors, seems bulls maimed and injured with lances and harpoons, before finally being ceremonially slaughtered by a sword. Matadors and their horses are also often injured in the vicious battles staged to impress the crowds.

Pro-bullfighting campaigners point to their sport's popularity; the largest bullfighting ring in the world can be seen in Mexico's capital city, seating up to 40,000 people.

French bullfighter Sebastian Castella, in action with his first bull at Plaza Mexico bullring in Mexico City in January

Known as 'la fiesta brava' as the sport brings in millions of dollars a year, and is more than 500 years old. Last week pro bull fighting campaigners gathering in the capital city in the run up to the deadline, holding banners saying "Yes to bullfighting! Art. Culture. Tradition. Support of thousands of families."

However opposition is growing to the sport with a number of spectacular anti-bullfighting protests staged in support of Congressman Cristian Vargas, who proposed the bill to ban bull fighting in December.

Over 250 people covered themselves in fake blood and lay down on the streets of Mexico city to protest against bullfighting in February

Violence has broken out on the streets, with police forced to intervene after an animal rights activist clashed with a matador during a protest on on the streets of Mexico city last Tuesday.

Anti-bullfighting protestors point to its cruelty, as well as its introduction by Spanish colonists in the 1500s to counter claims that it is part of Mexican culture.

Catalonia, with its aspirations of independence, banned the practice in 2011, and the Canary Islands abolished the sport in 2001.

The League Against Cruel Sports stress barbarism behind the scenes, claiming that bulls are sometimes weakened and drugged before fights.

Vaseline can be smeared in their eyes to impair their vision and a bull’s horns may be shaved before a fight, making them extremely sensitive to pain, the animal rights campaigners claim.

Although matadors are hailed as heroes by those who support the sport, bullfighting cripples one out of four matadors during their careers and one out of ten die.

Juan Jose Padilla has returned to the ring

Its gory reality was highlighted recently after Juan Jose Padilla was speared in the arena.

The bull's horn tore through his lower jaw and up towards his eyeball. The 38-year-old now suffers from partial facial paralysis, lost his sight in one eye and speaks with a lisp.