Running of the Bulls: Animal cruelty does not recognise nationality

Run for your life! It’s a well known expression, but it is rarely used literally. However, with the San Fermin Fiesta or ‘Running of the Bulls’ starting in Pamplona this weekend, running for their life is exactly what the bulls of Spain will be doing.

Every year thousands of tourists flock to the city to take part in this annual ‘tradition’ and watch the spectacle. During an entire week dozens of bulls will be abused and killed using a long sequence of gruesome methods.

With these kind of events, so-called cultural traditions, it becomes quite tempting to point the finger at the apparently barbaric culture of another nation. But let’s not forget these events are fuelled by tourism, with holiday makers paying to watch cruelty.

But when casting these judgments, perhaps we instead need to look closer to home. Hunting with hounds, which despite its banning in 2004, still plagues the British countryside, and while at first it’s not an obvious comparison to the ‘Running of the Bulls’, the resemblance is striking. 

Let’s have a look:

1. After a few years living in a field with very little contact with humans, the bull is forcibly taken from its herd to begin a calvary that will eventually end his life.

It is well recorded that something similar happens in happens in fox hunting. This year, a gamekeeper associated with the Belvoir Hunt was convicted for keeping a fox in cruel conditions in a disused outbuilding, which the League believes was being held to be chased and killed by a local hunt.

2. The bull is transported in a dark, hot and moving vehicle that he has never experienced before.

Have you ever wonder what those quad bikes are doing on a hunt? These are terrier men, who’s traditional, and current, purpose is to take terriers with them on a hunt to be used to flush out foxes when they’ve gone to ground. They are transported in little tool box-sized containers on the front and back of the terrier man’s quad bike. But these don’t always contain dogs. It has been known that foxes are carted around in crates, ready to be thrown to the hounds should they not be successful in locating a wild fox.

3. The bull is forced to run for 849 metres on slippery cobbled streets while being abused by hundreds of people hitting him, pulling his tail and forcing him to run faster in panic.

This is the hunt. Wild mammals are chased for miles before they are killed. In deer hunting for example the chase can last for three hours, and cover 18km.

4. The bull is kept alone in a dark barren cell without food or water until he is beaten towards a narrow tunnel ending in the bullring where thousands of people will be shouting at him. Several people shout and wave capes to confuse the bull and make him run from one end of the bullring to the other.

During cub hunting season, hounds are trained to kill by preying on infant foxes. Small woods, are surrounded by key hunt followers to ensure that if any foxes try to escape they are scared back in towards the pack of hounds using loud noises such as shouts and clapping.

5. A long lance is used by a rider on a blindfolded horse to stab the back of the bull, leading him to bleed profusely, debilitating him. Then several harpoons are stabbed into the bull to make him bleed and run because of the pain. Following this, a long sword is stabbed through the bull’s body several times until he collapses to the ground. Finally, daggers are stabbed into the back of the bull’s neck to attempt to paralyse and eventually kill him.

As with all blood sports, a slow, painful and traumatic death is not uncommon. At the end of a fox hunt, foxes are not killed quickly, but endure numerous bites and tears to their flanks and hindquarters - causing enormous suffering before death. Foxes forced to face terriers underground can suffer injuries to the face, head and neck, as can the terriers.

6. The ears or tails of the bull are cut off to be given as trophies to his killers - often before the bull has died.

At the end of a deer hunt the deer is then shot, usually with a shotgun, at close range. The carcass is then butchered and the entrails are given to the hounds. This is known as the 'carve up'. The hooves known as 'slots' and the teeth are given out or sold as 'trophies' to hunt supporters. The heart is normally given to the landowners of the land where the stag was killed, the head with its antlers is given to the Masters of the hunt as a trophy, and the rest of the body will be later skinned and butchered into joints which will be distributed to farmers and landowners over whose land the deer run.

So, you see, there are a lot of similarities. A shockingly high amount really. This is not to dismiss the level of cruelty in the Pamplona Bull Run. In fact, it only serves to show just how cruel it is, and that animal cruelty knows no boundaries, it does not recognise borders and hurting animals for sport is an international issue. And it’s something that is vital to remember when trying to bring an end to cruel sports.

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