After having lived here for quite some years now, I have gotten use to most of the things in which Spain differs from, let’s say, North Western Europe. However how they deal with their animals is NOT one of them. But is not only the Spaniards that keep certain traditions alive.
This week the normally sleepy city of Pamplona was inundated with tens of thousands of tourists from around the globe. The attraction? The (in)famous San Fermin festival — otherwise known as “the running of the bulls”
Each morning throughout this festival, revelers flaunt their bravado by taunting and racing ahead of six bulls and six steers who — with the aid of electric prods and sharp sticks — are stampeded through the city’s narrow, winding, cobbled streets. The hapless bulls, who have never known anything other than the peace and tranquility of the countryside, suddenly find themselves in the midst of a roaring, raucous, drunken mob who shoot darts at them.
Noisy firecrackers add to their terror as, bewildered and disorientated they slip and stumble on the wine-soaked cobblestones. Many sustain bruises, cuts, and broken bones. Apparently this “tradition” dates back to medieval times when bulls were herded through Pamplona’s streets to the bullring.
Locals helped drive them and running behind the bulls, later turned into running in front of them. Surprisingly, we are told that this festival, which clearly subjects animals to suffering, is a “deeply religious event to honour Pamplona’s patron saint”. The saint, San Fermin, was tied to wild bulls by the Romans and dragged to his death. Now obviously the bulls were not to blame for this action — yet the citizens of Pamplona now “honour” the saint by terrorizing lots of other innocent bulls who had nothing whatsoever to do with his death. How intelligent is this? Apparently locals even take their small children and grandparents in wheelchairs to watch the event.
After the run, people pack the bull ring to chase and taunt young calves — but it’s what happens to the bulls later that is most shocking.After a brief respite, they will become one of the 250.000 bulls cruelly tortured and killed by the bullfighting industry each year. This year quite some participants were gored again but none of their injuries have been life threatening which was fortunate for them — but unfortunate for the bulls.
Why? Because in all probability the only thing that will stop this barbaric event will be an increase in the number of fatalities.