Animal rights activists stripped naked to protest against the running of bulls through the streets of Pamplona, condemning one of Spain’s most famous traditions as cruel to animals.
About 20 men and women went ahead with the protest near the city center however, stripping completely. Some put on plastic horns or fake bull’s heads. They were joined by scores of other protesters who kept on all or part of their clothing.
Activists from all over Western Europe had planned to run nude along the route for this week’s annual bull runs, but police in the northern Spanish city said the protest was unauthorised and blocked their way.
About 20 men and women went ahead with the protest near the city centre on Saturday, however, stripping completely.
Some put on plastic horns or fake bull’s heads. They were joined by scores of other protesters who kept on all or part of their clothing.
“In the running of the bulls, you have terrified animals slipping and sliding along the cobbled stone streets. Many of them suffer from broken bones,” said Sean Gifford, of the US-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group that organised the protest.
“At the end of that terrified stampede, a gruesome death in the bullfighting ring awaits them,” he said. “Forty thousand bulls are slaughtered in Spanish bullrings every year in the most horrific of ways. This is a tradition that needs to end.”
The ancient San Fermin festival begins today, kicking off a week of celebrations that attract thousands of tourists from around the world.
Each morning from today, bulls are released into the old area of Pamplona and hundreds of daredevils run along part of the 825-metre course trying to avoid being gored.
Runners are often injured by bulls and 13 have been killed since 1900.
The run takes the bulls from corrals to the bullring, where later in the day they are fought. The festival was made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his 1920s novel The Sun Also Rises.
The protesters, including Spaniards, Italians, Germans, Britons and Belgians, walked in a circle, carrying banners and chanting “Animal liberation” and “Stop the bullfights”.
They were hemmed in by two lines of police, who pushed back anyone who attempted to break through. One demonstrator was hauled off by police but was released.
Belgian Eveline Peynsaert, a member of a group opposed to bullfighting, said: “We find it barbaric … We are not against tradition, but against cruelty to animals.”
Former miner Robert Lewis, from Wales, criticised the police. “It’s going to be a peaceful demo and nobody’s going to cause any problems apart from running naked,“ he said.
The demonstrators’ views did not seem to carry much weight with ordinary Pamplona residents.
“San Fermin festivals without bulls would be meaningless,” said Isabel Lopez, a 33-year-old clinic worker.