• Spain's news in English
Crowds clash over ban at Tordesillas bull festival
Photo: Archive photo of the Toro de la Vega. AFP

Crowds clash over ban at Tordesillas bull festival

Fiona Govan/The Local/AFP · 13 Sep 2016, 15:08

Published: 13 Sep 2016 15:08 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Sep 2016 15:08 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Insults and fisty-cuffs were exchanged during the first Toro de la Peña, an event designed to replace the Toro de la Vega, now that the practice of spearing a bull to death has been banned.

Mounted police kept the peace among crowds as hundreds gathered to witness or participate in the event in Tordesillas, a town 200km northwest of Madrid.

Traditionally men on horseback and on foot chased a chosen bull through town attempting to stab it to death with a spear. The victor won the privilege of parading through the town brandishing the bull’s testicles on his lance.

But amid increasing protests by animal rights activists, the regional government of Castilla y León introduced a ban against the killing of bulls at town festivals unless it took place in the context of a traditional bullfight in the bullring.

Instead revellers were allowed to chase to the bull to the pen in the outskirts of the town with sticks, but were forbidden from killing it.

Some had threatened to defy the ban, but despite the fierce words between animal rights protesters and locals supporting the tradition, there were no arrests and the bull was unhurt.

Police ensured the bull, a 670-kilo (1,500-pound) beast named Pelado - "Bare" in Spanish, was spared from anyone looking to defy the law as heavy rain cut short the event.

Ricardo Garcia, who was decked out in black, said he came from Madrid with a group of friends to "ensure the law is respected".   

Locals in the town of around 9,000 people held a protest in defence of the traditional bull-spearing festival.

They chanted: "Tordesillas does not give up!" and "Animal defenders are terrorists!"

Scuffles between animal rights activists and locals have been a regular occurence at the festival in recent years, contributing to the pressure to ban bull spearing.

While the activists welcome the ban, they complain the bull still suffers stress as it is chased and it is destined to be killed in the slaughterhouse in the end.

But for many locals the bull-spearing festival was a source of intense pride.

Local resident Omar Lumar proudly displays the head of a bull named Vulcano, killed in the festival in 2003, on the wall of his home.

Residents accuse the activists of "distorting" the reality of the festival to portray them as "savages".

"We have taken it really badly. These laws are a question of power, not of justice," Gerardo Abril, president of the festival's organising board, told AFP.

"It is incredible that in villages we have our traditions, and they take them away from us in cities," he added in a reference to Valladolid, the capital of Castile and Leon which passed the ban.

Story continues below…

Abril, a plumber who was gored seven times by a bull at the festival in 2011, said he has been vilified within the far-left United Left party to which he belongs because of his support for the festival.

A self-described feminist, he wore a red handkerchief with a small image of a bull and Marxist guerrilla leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara around his neck.    

Feelings over the ban have spilled over to the ballot box. In June's general election, 13.2 percent of votes cast in Tordesillas were blank - the highest level in the country, comparing to a national average of just 0.94 percent.

Animal rights party Pacma, which spearheaded efforts to ban the festival, won a record number of votes in the polls - nearly 235,000, although this was not enough to enter parliament.

The bull-spearing festival was banned once before, between 1966 and 1969 during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

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

Fiona Govan/The Local/AFP (fiona.govan@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in 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.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
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
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available