US stages Pamplona-style running of bulls

Americans who don't fancy making the long trip to Spain can now enjoy the thrill of being chased down the street by dangerous livestock in several US cities.

US stages Pamplona-style running of bulls
The US-based Great Bull Run will feature less aggressive animals than those used in Pamplona (above). Photo: Pedro Armestre/AFP

Up to now, Americans wanting to test their bravery by running with bulls have been forced to deal with all the hassle of international travel.

Now though, thanks to an event known as The Great Bull Run™, people living in the US enjoy Pamplona-style thrills on their own doorstep.

More than 5,000 people have already signed up for the first US bull run in Richmond, Virginia, organizers say.

Others similar events will take place in states including Texas, Florida and California. 

Planners for the events with the slogan 'Grab Life by the Horns' are at pains to take out that running with the bulls is not without its risks. 

"By participating in the run, you accept the risk that you might be trampled, gored, rammed or tossed in the air by a bull, or bumped, jostled, tripped or trampled by your fellow runners," the event website states.

The organizers are keen to stress, though, that there have been "only fifteen deaths in the Pamplona running of the bulls in the past 102 years!".

To reduce risks, the US bull runs will also feature "less aggressive animals" than those used in Spain, and there will places where people can take refuge from the stampeding animals.

"But you could still do," organizers warn.

If being charged by livestock is not cup of tea, don't worry. The US event also includes its own version of Spain's tomato-flinging Tomatina festival.

Known as the Tomato Royale, the US version of the Tomatina is "an insane tomato food fight".

Check out The Local's top ten images from Spain's running of the bulls 2013

"When the music starts, participants sprint to crates of tomatoes stationed around the arena and the free-for-all begins!" the US Bull Run website informs readers.

"Hurl tomatoes at your family, friends and fellow participants without guilt, inhibition or remorse!"

There are rules to this free-for-all though. Only people aged 14 and over can participate, and protective eyewear must be worn at all times.

Participants are also warned that the throwing of anything but tomatoes will result in their being ejected not only "from the Tomato Royale arena, but the entire Great Bull Run venue".

Those wishing to run with bulls, meanwhile, must sign a legal waiver stating they recognize the risks of injuries resulting from "contact or collision with live animals, including, but not limited to, bulls, steers, cattle or horses".

They must also sign up to accepting the risks of injuries including "broken bones, torn ligaments, deep lacerations or puncture wounds, exposure, heat-related illness, damage to internal organs, mental stress or exhaustion, infection and concussions".

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PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever

With the news last week that the Spanish city of Pamplona in Navarra has been forced to cancel its bull running fiesta for the second year running due to the Covid crisis, animal rights activists have seized on the opportunity to call for it to be banned permanently.

PETA offers cash to ban Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls forever
A shot from the encierro on July 7th 2019. Photo: AFP

PETA are writing to the mayor of Pamplona with the offer of €298,000 if the Navarran city ceases the use of bulls during their fiesta altogether.

“People around the world, including in Spain, say it’s past time the torment and slaughter of animals for human entertainment were stopped,” says PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in her appeal to Pamplona mayor, Enrique Maya.

“Now is the moment to be on the right side of history. We hope you will accept our offer and allow Pamplona to reinvent itself for the enjoyment of all.”

Each morning during the eight day festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, which bursts into celebration at midday on July 6th, six fighting bulls and six steers are released to run through the narrow streets of the old town to the bullring where the bulls are killed in the evening corridas.

Hundreds run alongside the animals in the morning dash which often results in gorings, and injuries from being stomped on after runners lose their footing in the crowds.

The festival, which was made world famous by Ernest Hemingway, who set his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” during San Fermin, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the party each year.

The festival, which sees Pamplona’s population swell from just under 200,000 to more than a million, is estimated to bring an annual boost of €74 million to Pamplona businesses, according to an association of fighting bull breeders.

PETA’s offer is the latest in a long campaign to ban what it calls “Pamplona’s annual bloodbath”.

Together with Spanish groupAnimaNaturalis, the activists stage peaceful protests ahead of the start of the festival year.

The city’s former mayor, Joseba Asirón, supported the protests, describing them as “fair and honest”.

Speaking to reporters about the groups’ calls to remove bull runs from the festival, he said, “[T]his is a debate that sooner or later we will have to put on the table. For a very simple reason, and that is that basing the festival on the suffering of a living being, in the 21st century, is something that, at best, we have to rethink.”

Since the pandemic began festivals across Spain have been cancelled but corridas were allowed last summer with limited occupancy and with social distancing and Covid-19 measures in place.

But although Spain’s bullfighting lobby is strong, there is a general trend away from it.

In a poll published in 2019 by online newspaper El Español, over 56 percent of Spaniards said they were against bullfighting, while only 24.7 were in favour. Some 18.9 percent said they were indifferent.

Support was significantly higher among conservative voters, it showed.