• Spain's news in English

Protestors lock horns over Spain's controversial bull spearing festival

Jessica Jones · 15 Sep 2015, 10:04

Published: 15 Sep 2015 10:04 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

As one of bullfighting’s deadliest summers draws to a close, Spain has saved one of its most controversial and gruesome bull festivals until last.

The Toro de la Vega Festival, celebrated annually in the town of Tordesillas, near Valladolid consists of a bull being hunted through the town’s streets by lancers, some on horseback and some on foot, whose aim is to lance the animal to death.

The festival will kick off at 11am on Tuesday, when the sound of rocket fire heralds the start of the chase. This year’s bull, Rompesuelas - or Groundbreaker in English - will set off through the streets pursued by lancers.

Their aim is to stab the 600kg bull to death before it reaches the pine forest at the edge of the town. If the bull does manage to outrun its pursuers, it will be "pardoned". 

"But how can animal cruelty be a cultural tradition?" this bull asks in a cartoon that has been widely shared on social media in Spain. 

But the gory ritual has drawn staunch criticism over the years, with cries for it to be banned reaching fever pitch on Saturday, when over 100,000 people took to the streets of Madrid in protest.

Spokeswoman for animal rights group Pacma, Laura Duarte, told crowds: "We want to show that the majority of citizens are against the Toro de la Vega and that it is only the locals in Tordesillas who continue to defend and enjoy this barbaric act."

The more than four-centuries old tradition has also drawn criticism from the country’s Socialist opposition, with leader Pedro Sanchez promising to ban the event if he wins Spain’s upcoming general election.

And the opposition to the event is nothing new; it was deemed cruel even by the regime of dictator General Francisco Franco and was banned between 1966 and 1970 for its "cruelty to animals". 

On Tuesday, Tordesillas is expecting hundreds of protestors and has drafted in extra police to cope with the influx. Around 200 police officers from Spain's Civil Guard, National Police and Civil Protection will patrol the town, which is expecting around 30,000 visitors for the event. A surveillance helicopter will also watch over the chase. 

Story continues below…

READ: Ricky Gervais sides with bulls over fatal gorings

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever
The islands will have longer evenings during winter. Photo: AFP

The Balearic Islands want to keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks back on Sunday.

  Brazilian had 'uncontrollable desire to kill': Spain police
Francois Patrick Nogueira Gouveia has been charged with murdering his uncle, his wife and their two children. Photo: Guardia Civil.

A Brazilian teenager accused of dismembering his uncle and aunt and killing their two young sons in a grisly crime that shocked Spain had an "uncontrollable desire to kill", police said on Monday.

Man rescued from bin after climbing in to find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Analysis & Opinion
Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
jobs available