Running of the bulls

It’s time again for another blood sport bath. Every summer from July 6th to 14th, the San Fermin Festival takes place in Pamplona, Spain. It’s a festival honoring Saint Fermin, a 3rd Century Roman who converted to Christianity.

Sadly, the festival revolves around the running of the bulls. Every morning bulls are forced onto slippery cobblestone streets filled with thousands of crazed revelers. As fireworks and explosives go off, the terrified animals run through a cordoned off section that creates a chute of sorts. The route leads to a bull ring, where they will be tortured and killed.

Photo credit: Bernard bill5 at nl.wikipedia

The festival is steeped in tradition related to transporting bulls to market. Today, it attracts stupid (mostly) men, many of them tourists, who think running among terrified animals makes them macho. It’s not brave or masculine. It’s shameful.

Many Spaniards oppose this cruelty. This year, animal rights activists from PETA UK and Spain’s Anima Naturalis joined forces to demonstrate against the barbaric practice. They stood in coffins (representing the 48 bulls that will be killed during the festival) to protest.

Photo credit: RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

The San Fermin festival attracts thousands of tourists to watch the bull runs. Bull fighting is actually on the decline but tourism keeps it alive. When travelling, stay far away from bull fights and other forms of cruelty and vote with your dollar. Spain is a beautiful country so enjoy the scenery, hospitality, dance, art, architecture, nature and beaches instead.

Benjamin Zephaniah, writer and poet, says it best: “Tourists who participate in the run or visit  Pamplona simply to watch it contribute to the carnage. Every shared tapa, every cerveza, every  booked hotel room and balcony bolsters the killing. As long as the city makes money off the event, bulls will continue to suffer and die.”

The festival isn’t really about the saint behind the name. If a raucous drink-fest is what people are looking for, there are lots of ways to do that, from dance clubs in Ibiza to music festivals. At least at La Tomatina, animals aren’t involved, although throwing tomatoes around is a waste of good food.

In a fun 21st Century take on a cruel tradition, New Orleans has their own running of the bulls festival, where roller derby skaters from the Big Easy Rollergirls league play the part of bulls. You can run down the street and get knocked over by a derby player. Drink, sing, dance and no animals get killed! In fact, part of the proceeds from the event support Animal Rescue New Orleans.

There’s always a way to keep traditions alive with new, fun versions of outdated cruel practices. Last year 12,000 participants were chased by over 350 RollerBulls!