SHARE
COPY LINK
VIDEO

ANIMAL RIGHTS

Animal rights activist beaten with live duck at festival in Catalonia

An animal rights activist was beaten with a duck by a Spanish woman defending one of the country's most bizarre and controversial festival traditions.

Animal rights activist beaten with live duck at festival in Catalonia
The woman repeatedly swings the duck at the activist. Photo: Animal Rescue España

The man was whacked with the bird while he filmed the annual “duck chase” in the Catalonian seaside town of Roses, where every August ducks are thrown into the Mediterranean and then caught and brought back to the shore by swimmers.

“Continue, continue. Continue to abuse, I am filming you. A little bit of empathy for the animals. They also have a life, like your children or your family,” the man who was filming can be heard saying in a video of the incident released by animal rights group Animal Rescue España.

The footage shows a young woman wearing a white bathing suit attack the man with a duck — holding it by the legs as she repeatedly lashes him with it.   

As the attack goes on, animal rights activists gathered on the shore can be heard chanting, “You would not do that to your dog,” before they were removed by police.

Every year since 1918 about 50 ducks are thrown into the sea in the town north of Barcelona, with swimmers then racing in to catch them and bringing them ashore however they can.

But after Sunday's incident, the town's mayor is mulling putting an end to the “duck chase”.

Interviewed by local online news site Emporda, the mayor of Roses, Montse Mindan, prosposed “holding a referendum next year on what residents think, if they want to keep this festival, a tradition that will celebrate its centenary in two years.”

'Pain, fear and suffering'

While the ducks are not killed, Animal Rescue Espana said they suffer “stress, internal hemorrhaging, pain, fear and suffering.”

The group launched a petition on the Change.org website demanding that Roses ban the “duck chase” as well as bull runs.

The petition has received over 10,000 signatures since it was launched on August 14.

Spain has many controversial animal-based traditions, often in honour of patron saints, which animal rights groups argue are cruel.

Bull runs, where people run ahead of a pack of half-tonne fighting bulls, are a part of summer festivals across the country, the most famous during the San Fermin feria in Pamplona.

At least nine people have lost their lives at bull festivals since the beginning of June, including one man who was gored in the neck earlier this month while filming a run on his mobile phone.

Festivities at the annual San Antolin festival in the Basque coastal town of Lekeitio revolve around a contest where young men battle to pull the head off a dead goose as it is dragged on a pulley across the harbour.

Previously a live goose was used.

Villagers in the northern village of Manganeses de la Polvorosa used to hurl a live goat from the top of their church tower to honour its patron saint but the practice was banned in 1992.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

MADRID

How the pandemic has put the careers of Spain’s trainee bullfighters on hold

Cries of "Toro, toro!" echo round the empty stands at Madrid's world-famous bullring where two young apprentice bullfighters have seen their promising careers abruptly halted by the pandemic.

How the pandemic has put the careers of Spain's trainee bullfighters on hold
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Wearing a tracksuit, trainers and an FFP2 mask, 22-year-old Alvaro Burdiel holds out his vibrant fuchsia-and-mustard cape in front of him. With his arms rigid and shoulders proud, he has the gesture down to a tee.

A bullfighting hopeful, he already experienced one triumphal entry through the main gate at Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring, borne on the shoulders of his supporters in October 2019 — a matador’s greatest honour.

Right now, he doesn’t know when he’ll be back in the ring again, but he hasn’t missed one of his daily classes on the ochre-coloured sand inside this historic venue in the heart of the Spanish capital.

“We all have ups and downs. But that’s where the passion shows through – in persevering,” he says. “In those moments, that’s what makes you stand out from the rest: not giving up.”

‘Decisive years’

A little further away is 19-year-old Guillermo Garcia who was lucky enough to be chosen to fight on May 2nd in the first bullfight to be put on at Las Ventas in 18 months.

Wearing a sage green t-shirt, he twitches his cape slightly, catching the sand in a bid to provoke the beast in front of him.

But there is no bull today – only a fellow student gripping a pair of horns. His back hunched and breathing heavily, he lunges forward with everything he’s got.

On this April afternoon, there are about 20 young students tirelessly running through the choreography of the bullfight.

Trainee bullfighters at Madrid’s Las Ventas. Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

At one side stands a “carreton”, a bulls head mounted on a wheelbarrow-like contraption that can also be used to simulate the charge.

The teachers try to keep their students’ enthusiasm up, despite the uncertainties hanging over the season, which normally runs from March to October but was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.

In the southern city of Seville, which is also known for its love of bullfighting, all the events planned for mid-April had to be cancelled due to virus restrictions.

At Las Ventas, the school is run by famed former matador José Pedro Prados, popularly known as El Fundi.

“Slowly! Don’t lift your heel until the last moment, move from the waist – that’s it!” he calls. “We take them to ranches to keep their spirits up and maintain their enthusiasm,” he says.

“Bullfighting schools are having a really hard time” because of the restrictions put in place due to the virus, he adds.

“There were youngsters who were at their peak when everything shut down. And this could end up halting them in their tracks because these are decisive years for many people’s careers.”

Teen in the arena

The stands are deserted except for a handful of workers repainting the barriers ahead of Sunday’s reopening.

Closed since October 2019, Las Ventas managed to get the authorisation to hold a bullfight on Sunday with just 6,000 spectators in an arena that normally holds 44,000.

On the bill are stars like El Juli and Enrique Ponce alongside the young Guillermo Garcia, who is listed as a novillero, or novice matador. Still a teenager, Garcia has got this far thanks to his sheer dedication, says El Fundi.

Trainee bullfighter in Madrid. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

“Since the beginning… there’s always been something different about him, he is serious, he has a lot of strength and enthusiasm and he’s always been very committed to training.”

But Garcia admits he’s had moments of doubt over the past year. “It’s been very hard because you didn’t know if you’d ever get the chance to prove yourself after all this training. But I told myself that sooner or later they were going to reopen the bullrings and that one day I’d get my chance to perform.”

And Sunday won’t be easy, admits the youngster who is studying business management.

“It’s going to be difficult when I go out to fight and see people wearing masks, seated apart and with the stands half empty.”

There also won’t be any triumphal entry through the main gate with the victorious matador carried on the shoulders of his supporters because of restrictions on gatherings.

“That’s just the way it is,” he sighs. “But the bull doesn’t care about the pandemic, it’s all the same to him.”

Even if the health crisis drags on longer than expected, there is no shortage of eager students keen to show off their skill.

One is six-year-old Nico. It’s “practice bullfighting,” he explains very seriously as he dances around the sand in a cape, wielding his miniature sword.

SHOW COMMENTS