13:54 GMT17 February 2020
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    There is a social debate going on in Spain over whether the country should ban its trademark bull-fighting and bull-running events. Animal rights groups warn that dozens of bulls are killed annually in Pamplona, at the iconic San Fermin festival.

    More than 50 animal rights activists staged a protest against the famous bull-running tradition in the Spanish city of Pamplona, as the San Fermin fiesta is about to begin.

    Wearing nothing but black underpants, members of PETA and Spanish animal protection group AnimaNaturalis lay in white silhouettes of ‘murdered’ bulls on a hot cobbled square in the city centre.

    Some of them also wore bull horns and had fake lances in their backs – a reference to the weapon which the picador (“picker” in Spanish) pricks the bull with to commence the fight.

    The stunt took place one day ahead of the San Fermin festival, an eight-day fiesta famous for its bull-running spectacular, in which the animals chase daredevil participants through the streets to the ring where they are stabbed to death.

    The scene of the stunt, which involved 54 protesters from Spain, the UK, the US, Ireland and Australia, was cordoned off with yellow tape, representing the bulls’ "crime scene".

     

    A pro-animal rights activists sits on the ground holding a placard reading Bulls killed in Pamplona during a protest against bullfighting and bull-running called by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pro-animal group on the eve of the San Fermin festivities in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona on July 5, 2019
    © AFP 2019 / ANDER GILLENEA
    A pro-animal rights activists sits on the ground holding a placard reading "Bulls killed in Pamplona" during a protest against bullfighting and bull-running called by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pro-animal group on the eve of the San Fermin festivities in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona on July 5, 2019

     

    “Young bulls who have had very little contact with humans are transported to Pamplona on a long and stressful journey,” PETA UK said in a statement on its website.

    “The festival organisers confine them to a small pen for several days. Then, they release them into a noisy, chaotic mob of people – mostly tourists – who chase the terrified animals through the narrow streets of the city. The bulls often crash into walls or lose their footing, sometimes breaking bones.”

    PETA went on to warn that at least 48 bulls would be killed during San Fermin festivities and called on the mayor of Pamplona to “stop this bloodbath”.

    Bull runs, a centuries-old tradition, is still popular in some Spanish towns during summertime; the more violent practice of bull-fighting has courted much more controversy as of late.

    A demonstrator protests against bullfighting in front of the City Hall a day before of the famous San Fermin festival, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Friday, July 5, 2019
    © AP Photo / Alvaro Barrientos
    A demonstrator protests against bullfighting in front of the City Hall a day before of the famous San Fermin festival, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Friday, July 5, 2019

    Former Pamplona mayor Joseba Asiron said last year that the bull runs put a “mark of identity” on the northern Spanish city, but that it is possible to leave the bull-running without the fighting, drawing backlash from the bullfighting industry and breeders.

    The Canary Islands banned the controversial practice in 1991, with Catalonia following suit in 2010.

    However, Spain’s Constitutional Court overturned Catalonia’s decision in 2016, saying that the local government had infringed on Madrid’s powers in banning what the court described as “one more expression of a cultural nature that forms part of the common cultural heritage”.

    The ruling did not clarify whether the Canary ban had been unlawful.

    Similar proposals are currently being discussed in the Balearic Islands and several municipalities across the country.

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