Spanish animal protesters target bull run in Pamplona

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The annual running of the bulls began in Pamplona this weekend, but The UK’S Guardian reports that anti-bullfighting groups are planning various protests to capitalize on a 2006 Gallup survey that found 72% of Spaniards claim to have no interest in the sport:

In the past, the festival of San Fermin has attracted nude protests from activists. On Saturday animal rights activists. above, wearing banderillas, barbed darts which are stabbed into the bull’s neck during bullfights, stage a provocative protest before the start the nine-day San Fermin Festival on Sunday in Pamplona. But within Spain a radical wing of the anti-bullfighting movement has begun to stage more confrontational demonstrations in the hope of gaining a higher profile. Two groups, Equanimal and Igualidad Animal, have invaded Spanish bullrings for the first time, in a new tactic that they intend to repeat throughout the bull-fighting season. Previous protests have been limited to placard-waving outside the bullrings. Demonstrators invaded the ring at Madrid’s prestigious Las Ventas during the Festival of San Isidro, the biggest date on the bullfighting calendar. At the El Monumental ring in Barcelona last month four protesters [one of whom is pictured at right] carrying signs saying ‘Abolition’ jumped over the perimeter wall to get into the ring after the bull was killed. Igualidad Animal supporters claimed they were attacked by workers at the ring before police and security could intervene. The festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, which runs until [Monday], attracts hundreds of willing ‘runners’ from around the world, many inspired by [Ernest] Hemingway’s book The Sun Also Rises, which is largely responsible for event’s fame. After the bulls run through the narrow streets of Pamplona, they face the matador in the ring. Anti-bullfighting campaigners say invading bullrings will not lead to violent clashes [or] damage their cause. Jordi Casamitjana of the Anti-Bullfighting Committee said: ‘I don’t think this is heading towards extremism. It is still nonviolent. If you said to Gandhi that he could not stage his protests, where would we be today? This helps keep people aware of this cruelty.’ But Luis Corrales, director of the pro-bullfighting Platform for the Defence of the National Festival, said: ‘If they want to make a point to society about bullfighting, that is up to them, and we have no problem with that. But invading the bullring is pure provocation.’

Bullfighting is a centuries-old staple of Spanish culture that was exported to Latin America, but has been under fire globally in recent years by activists calling it glorified animal cruelty. However, bloodless fights, which started in the United States after activists complained about bulls being harmed during traditional fights, are considered more dangerous for bullfighters because they lack a weapon for defense. The argument continues.

--Francisco Vara-Orta