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Spaniards Won't Throw Goat

Under pressure from animal rights activists, the northwestern Spanish town of Manganeses de la Polvorosa will forgo the annual tradition of tossing a goat from a bell tower, officials said Tuesday.

Tradition holds that the annual festival of St. Vincent -- the town's patron saint -- cannot begin unless a goat is thrown 50 feet from the bell tower and is safely caught in a tarp.

The event, which has attracted fierce protests from animal rights campaigners in the past, was scheduled for Jan. 23 this year.

The councilors of Manganeses, however, said the town will not take responsibility for the "behaviors of the participants in the spectacle," the state news agency EFE reported.

According to EFE, the town was fined about $150 last year by the regional government after the National Association of Animal Welfare and Protection filed a complaint about the throw.

In 1992, protests against the goat-launch persuaded the local governor to ban the toss, and villagers had to content themselves with using ropes to lower the goat. A year later the ropes were abandoned and the ban defied. The ban is still technically in place but is usually ignored.

The origins of the ritual are unclear, but according to one legend, a priest's goat -- whose milk fed the poor -- accidentally fell from the bell tower and was saved by villagers holding a blanket.

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