French top legal authority Constitutional Council has rejected a plea from animal rights campaigners to ban bullfighting.
The campaigners wanted the fights categorized as cruelty to animals.
But the judges said the “traditional” fights, held in areas of southern France, “do not harm people’s protected constitutional rights”.
More than 1,000 bulls are killed annually in French bullfights, the AFP news agency reports.
Although bullfighting originated in neighboring Spain, it took root in France a century and a half ago. Fights – known as corridas in Spain – are especially popular in the Nimes and Arles areas.
A ban on bullfighting came into force in Spain’s Catalonia region this year, after lawmakers voted for it last year – the first such ban in the country’s mainland.
A recent opinion poll in France suggested 48% support for a ban, although earlier polls suggested as many as two-thirds of the French electorate would back a ban.
France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls, born in Barcelona, spoke in favor of bullfighting earlier this month.
Bullfights are banned in some parts of France. Animal rights groups are now considering taking the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.