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ANIMAL RIGHTS

Disturbing footage shows torment of bull during town fiesta

Shocking footage showing the suffering of a Spanish fighting bull during a fiesta in eastern Spain has renewed calls to ban bullfighting and related activites.

Disturbing footage shows torment of bull during town fiesta
Footage from the video published by TauromaquiaViolencia.

Footage captured during the “bou al carrer”, a traditional running of the bulls in Villa Real near Castellón in the Valencia region of Spain shows an animal having some sort of seizure during the event on Wednesday, May 16th.

The bull is seen running along the designated path through the town surrounded by spectators when he falls to his knees and then collapses onto the ground.

The half-tonne animal is seen in visible distress as it repeatedly bashes it head and horns on the tarmac while its body writhes uncontrollably.

The crowd can be heard whistling in anger as the bull no longer was able to run.

Oblivious to its plight, a spectator rushes forward and pulls the animal’s tail in an attempt to get him on his feet and continuing on its path.

But the animal once it gets to its feet is clearly disorientated and unable to run. Experts suggested that the bull was suffering some sort of damage to its central nervous system, perhaps after slamming heavily into a barrier or wall earlier in the run.

WARNING: Viewers may find this footage disturbing

Seeing the images, José Enrique Zaldívar, the president of AVATMA, an association of vets lobbying against bullfighting and animal abuse suggested that the animal had “suffering some sort of damage to its central nervous system”.

“It is possibly due to a head injury, perhaps caused by crashing against the safety barriers protecting spectators along the route”.

He said that the video is proof that “even those spectacles that don’t involve blood such as bous al carrer also bring intense suffering for the animals”.

READ ALSO: Breeding fighting bulls in Spain: a family's passion

The image was released as protestors prepare to take to the streets later this month to demand an end to bullfighting and taurine entertainments in Spain.

The demonstration has been called for Sunday May 27th in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol by Tauromaquia Es Violencia (TeV), a coalition of national and international organizations that fight against mistreatment and for the rights of animals.

Photo: AFP 

The group estimates that around 20,000 fighting bulls are used in taurine festivals across Spain each summer.

Although hundreds of bullfights and bull-related festivals take place across Spain each summer, there are growing calls to ban it for animal rights reasons.

Catalonia introduced a ban on bullfighting in 2010 for animal cruelty reasons but the law was overturned by Spain’s Constitutional Court last year.

Support for bullfighting has waned in recent years with demonstrations against the tradition regularly attracting thousands of participants.

The only other Spanish region to have successfully banned bullfighting is the Canary Islands, though Castile and Leon in Spain's northwest abolished the killing of bulls at town festivals in 2016.

The Balearic regional parliament has voted in a raft of new measures that overhaul bullfights and ensure that no animals are hurt in the spectacle.

Several cities have also put a stop to bullfighting or annual festivals with bull running over the years.

But other traditions with bulls continue to take place, such as placing flaming torches on their horns and letting the animals loose in the street.

Bullfighting was declared part of Spain’s cultural heritage in national laws introduced in 2013 and 2015 by the conservative Popular Party (PP) government of Mariano Rajoy.

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.

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