Another San Fermin is just around the corner. Another year of 24-hour street fiestas, wine fights and fireworks. Another year of 30 million spectators swimming through the streets in a sea of red and white. Another year of four dozen bulls tortured and slaughtered for the sake of tradition and entertainment.
Before arriving in Pamplona last year, I told myself I wasn’t going anywhere near the bull run or bullfights. I was going purely to work at the campsite and party with the crew and would leave the incredibly unethical aspect of San Fermin out of my schedule. I’m all for immersing myself in different cultures and participating in traditional events, but when they involve unnecessary violence and torture, I prefer to tap out. Even going to the Chupinazo (opening ceremony) and joining in on the night-time fiestas I felt was hypocritical of me, as I was still indirectly supporting the slaughter.
“But you’re just one person,” my friends pointed out. “You not running or supporting it won’t make a difference, so you may as well just do it.”
And therein lies the issue.
For those who don’t know what San Fermin – or the Running of the Bulls – is, here’s a quick rundown of events.
At 8 o’clock every morning of the festival in Spain, which runs for eight days, a group of six Spanish fighting bulls and nine steers are herded down the streets from the edge of Pamplona to the city’s bullring, with thousands of human participants running amongst them. Each stage of the run is signalled by a series of rockets being set off – one at the beginning of the race, one to signal the bulls leaving the corrals (to make them run faster and encourage punters to watch the fuck out), and one to signal the end of the run (when all the bulls have entered the arena). Once they’re all inside, the crowd goes mental with applause, cheering on the survivors of the world’s most dangerous and most senseless run.
At 6 o’clock each night is when the cruelty really begins. The bulls that ran that day are brought back into the Plaza de Toros (bullfighting arena) where they are subjected to an hour of torture from their human opponents. One by one, they’re chased and knocked down, stabbed with puntillas (daggers) and slashed multiple times before being brutally slaughtered in front of the crowd. The spectacle is so gruesome that even those with strong stomachs will have trouble watching if they aren’t accustomed to it. The Aussie guys I spoke to back at the campsite said it was the most horrifying thing they’ve seen to date, and they weren’t able to watch the full thing, which is saying something, because they seemed pretty bloody wild characters to me.
What’s worse is that San Fermin isn’t the only festival in Spain that endorses bullfighting. In fact, similar events run in various cities every month from February to September.
How are these archaic slaughter-fests still such a popularly celebrated tradition in today’s day and age?
I guess for the same reasons the Yulin Dog-Meat Festival still fills the streets of China with bloody puppy carcasses each year. The same reasons the Kots Kaal Pato in Mexico still uses live animals as piñatas, bashing them to death in front of crowds for the sake of entertainment. The same reasons the Farra do Boi in Brazil still sees live oxes eyes being rubbed with hot peppers and gouged out before they are doused with gasoline and set on fire, later to be eaten by onlookers.
There are a number of barbarous festivities continuing to take place around the world, and it’s because not enough people are aware of the insane cruelty behind them and those who are have this I’m just one person mentality. Of course, nobody would be able to completely shut down a traditional festival with millions of supporters on their own – that’s not what I’m suggesting. But if every individual who cared enough shared their reasons for not attending or supporting, they could potentially start a ripple effect.
People power is the strongest voice we mere civilians have, and in cases like these, it is crying out to be used.
So for all the animal lovers out there – keep preaching to the masses, sharing shit on social media, starting petitions and writing letters. Keep doing whatever you can to increase awareness of these sadistic events so they can hopefully one day be a horror of the past.
And for all you crazy hooligans who want to keep running with the bulls each year, I’m not going to stop you… but just remember while you’re running for your life that the beasts chasing you are doing the exact same thing.