Demonstrators for and against bullfighting gathered outside Barcelona's Monumental bullring before the arena staged its first bullfight since a ban was approved by regional legislators on Wednesday.
The ban, which comes into effect in 2012, will have more of a symbolic than practical effect, given that bullfighting is not a popular spectacle in Catalonia and the Monumental is the region's last operating arena.
A newspaper poll showed 58 per cent of respondents believe the Catalan ban was more a rejection of a Spanish tradition than a desire to protect animal rights.
Catalonia, which prides itself on its distinct identity, became Spain's first major region to prohibit bullfighting last week following a campaign by rights activists.
However, 57 per cent of respondents said they opposed Catalonia's prohibition, while only 30 per cent backed it.
The prohibition has irked the bullfighting sector and enraged the conservative opposition Popular Party.
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he respected the regional parliament's decision, but added that he did not think prohibition was a good policy.