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Bull Running Festivals

The ‘running of the bulls’ is a practice which involves letting loose up to a dozen bulls to run with and in front of thousands of jeering crowds along a designated route to their final destination, the bull ring. 

The San Fermin or Pamplona Bull Run is the most publicised bull run which attracts thousands of International tourists each year, but there are bull runs and bull running festivals which operate in many towns and countries across Spain and Mexico, and in many other countries such as Portugal, Peru, Nevada, France, California and more recently Arizona.

The Pamplona Bull Run

The Pamplona Bull Run takes place during the San Fermin festival in Spain every year between the 6th July and 14th July. This year’s campaign against this cruel festival has seen the League appeal to the student travel operator, STA Travel asking them to stop promoting and selling trips to the festival through their supplier TopDeck Travel. 

STA Travel are an ABTA member but despite being signed up to ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines, which deem bull running and bullfighting as ‘unacceptable practices involving animals in cultural events and activities’, were confusingly selling packages that support tourist attendance at the Pamplona Bull Run. 

This week (8th July) following our campaign, STA Travel issued a statement to say that the company has ‘discontinued the sale of San Fermin Festival tours in Pamplona’ – a fantastic victory for Pamplona’s Bulls.

STA's decision to cease the promotion of the festival came less than two weeks after the League launched a new action asking supporters to contact STA’s CEO, John Constable and make their opposition known. Over 12,000 people took action by contacting STA Travel highlighting the cruelty of bull running and bullfighting. People shared our hard hitting film and also followed 'Bully' the bull with his visit to STA's flagship store in London. We could not have achieved this victory without your support, so thank you!

STA Travel employs nearly 2,000 people in more than 200 branches across 12 countries, meaning this move will make an impact around the world.

You can view STA's statement here. Whilst this is good news overall, the sad fact is it does nothing to help the bulls who will be chased through the streets of Pamplona this year, and who will be killed in the bull ring at the end of the day. However, it's a major step in helping the bulls of 2015 onwards, and in enforcing the Animal Welfare Guidelines.

The campaign does not stop here - so watch out for further updates


What happens during the Pamplona Running of the Bulls?

Each morning bulls are forced to run a kilometre down the cobblestone streets of the town, chased by cheering participants and spectators. Once released, the bulls are frightened with gun shots, electrocuted with cattle prods and kicked and hit by jeering spectators, often down concrete or cobbled streets which they slip and slide on, suffering broken legs and other injuries in the process. 

The bulls are chased into a holding pen at the bull ring, to await their deaths at the bullfights, during the ‘corrida de toros’ that take place later that evening. Whilst in the holding pens some may be subjected to further ‘weakening’ which can involve the shaving of their horns (an excruciating process which leaves them disorientated and more sensitive to pain), being debilitated with laxatives, having vaseline rubbed into their eyes to impair vision, and by being drugged. 

In front of jeering crowds, the bulls are then tortured and antagonised by the matadors on horseback, waving flags and repeatedly stabbing the confused animals in the neck and back. The injured, bleeding bull, weakened and exhausted, is then killed with a sword by the picador.

If the animal is not killed immediately, it is stabbed repeatedly until paralysed. When the bull finally collapses, its spinal cord is cut, but the animal may still be conscious as its ears and tail are cut off and kept as a ‘trophies’.
Bull fights and fiestas attract people from all over the world; including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, America and Europe, including the UK. Many are unaware of the bulls’ fate after the initial ‘running’. Frustratingly, revenue generated from curious tourists ensures the survival of fiestas such as San Fermin.

Even though the fiesta is often described by package selling tour operators as ‘a spectacle not to be missed’, the harsh reality is that the spectacle they are referring to is based on savagery and cruelty, with no regard for the welfare of the animals at the centre of the attention.

However, like many cruel sports, bullfighting and cruel fiestas continue to be justified by those involved as being part of the country’s history and culture. The League argues that this is a poor excuse for a practice that most people in Spain, the UK and around the world view as ritualised animal abuse.

The pro-bullfighting lobby would have us believe the faux ‘contest’ between a willing man and an unwilling bull is ‘art and culture, a magical rite of life, a just and honourable way of life where man and bull combine to create unique and unrepeatable moments’, an argument that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Recently, the popular video sharing portal, YouTube, closed down channels devoted to Spain’s “national fiesta”, removing content showing bloody scenes of bulls being lanced by picadors, which it publically categorised as animal abuse.

We are asking for the public not to support this barbaric practice and to boycott any and all forms of bull running fiestas and bullfights, opting for a humane but yet exhilarating festival such as La Tomatina, coined the world’s biggest food fight, where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets, and no animals are hurt as a result.

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