05/06/2011 01:43 pm ET | Updated Jul 26, 2011

Ecuadorean Bullfighters Protest Proposed Bull-Killing Ban

Bullfighters in Ecuador are seeing red over a ballot referendum that, if passed, will ban the traditional killing of bulls at the end of bullfights.

Ecuadorian voters will decide on May 7 whether to accept a 10-point plan proposed by President Rafael Correa that would give the executive branch more control over the judiciary, establish a commission to regulate media content, and rein in financial institutions and media conglomerates by prohibiting them from holding investments in other industries.

But it's Point No. 7 that's making Ecuadorian matadors have a cow: It would make it illegal to kill animals for entertainment.

That might be good for the bulls, but matadors like Diego Rivas fear the ban will negatively impact their finances. Beyond that, Rivas says killing the bull is an integral part of the tradition, and eliminating it would be a travesty to the sport.

"It's much more honest to do it in the open where you and the bull face the ultimate consequences," Rivas told the Miami Herald. "Not killing the bull is like an artist not signing his work."

Members of Ecuador's matador community staged a protest on Wednesday in front of the Carondelet presidential palace in Quito in all their bullfighting regalia -- with one important addition: tape over their mouths to demonstrate that they are not being heard.

Milton Calahorrano, president of Ecuador's Union of Bullfighters, believes eliminating the killing of bulls in bullfights would be a death blow to the 97,000 families he estimates make at least some of their income off bullfighting.

Even though Correa says bullfights will still continue -- just without the deaths -- Calahorrano insists that the ban will forever change the sport he knows and loves, one that has been a part of Ecuador's culture for three centuries.

"[That's] not bullfighting," he said. "That's like a soccer match without any goals."