The Canary Islands became the first region of Spain to outlaw bullfighting, responding in part to tourists who objected to the blood sport.

The regional parliament in Tenerife on Thursday approved the prohibition, covering the holiday islands off the coast of Morocco. Previously, only a small town in northeastern Spain had a local law forbidding bullfighting.Bullfighting is not a major sport in the Canary Islands, but promoters have been trying to boost its popularity, especially among the millions of foreign tourists who flock there every year.

Yet it was the tourist trade that helped bring about the new law. Last fall, an animal protection bill failed to get through the regional Parliament, and Spanish animal lovers appealed to tourists to deluge the islands' politicians with protests. The response was enormous.

Jose Barcelo, president of the national Bullfight Organizers Association, described the new law passed on Tenerife, the main island, as "irrational."

"Bullfights can be a little rough sometimes but you cannot associate them with cruelty. Anyone who really knows anything about bullfighting realizes that a matador would never be cruel to the bulls," he said.