MADRID – Run with the bulls, let them tumble into the sea during the chase, even stick fireworks or flaming wax to their horns – but don’t kill them. That’s the line legislators in northeastern Spain drew Wednesday between protecting animals and upholding cherished national traditions.

The Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona, banned bullfighting in July, but many other bull-related traditions in which the animals are not killed continue there.

Wednesday’s bill, overwhelmingly approved by the regional parliament, was widely seen as a way to enshrine the customs, regulate them for the first time and buffer them against pressure to do away with them.

Defenders of the events heaved a sigh of relief, saying they are far removed from the bloodshed of actual bullfights.

“They could not deny us this freedom,” said Pere Fumador, a bull breeder in the Ebro River valley region where the customs are most deeply rooted.

Some animal-welfare activists, however, believe the vote will eventually spell the end of human thrill-seeking at the bulls’ expense in Catalonia, the second region of Spain — after the Canary Islands — to ban bullfighting. They predict that officials will find it impossible to regulate the often chaotic events, where the danger is a key attraction.

Proponents say the goal is not to harm or kill the bulls.