DO SON, Vietnam — Vietnam’s annual water buffalo fighting festival resumed Thursday despite calls for an end to the traditional event because of its violence.

The tournament was halted three months ago after a buffalo killed its owner on the field. It was the first human fatality, although buffaloes have died in fights before.

More safety measures, including reinforced fences and tests of buffaloes for stimulants, have been put in place since then.

On Thursday, about 20,000 people crowded the stadium in the resort town of Do Son in Hai Phong to watch the finals, in which 16 buffaloes were pitted against each other.

In accordance with tradition, all losing buffaloes are slaughtered right after the end of the tournament. The winning buffalo is killed the next day as a tribute to God.

The death in July sparked a heated debate over whether to continue the festival.

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