Deaths mark Spanish bullfights

MADRID — Bullfights may be a favorite sight for locals and visitors alike at thousands of summer festivals across Spain, but this year’s gruesome and record-breaking toll of eight deaths has prompted politicians and animal welfare advocates to criticize this practice.

The fear-infused cries of excitement as bulls charge through the streets of many Spanish towns during hugely popular summer festivals echo the number of people who have died from gored this year.

There were no deaths or injuries in Atanzon when revelers on foot and on horseback ran with the rampaging animal recently. But last week in Alalpardo, less than an hour away, an ox fatally gored a 60-year-old man.

A week earlier, a 73-year-old Frenchwoman who was a regular at bullfighting events died in the eastern town of Beniarbeig after being gored in the chest. Six men were fatally gored at other festivals in Valencia and more than 380 attendees were injured. The season does not end until November.

Despite the concern, authorities seem unsure what additional security measures they can take.

“Some people have lost all fear of the bull,” regional emergency chief Jose Maria Angel said. He urges revelers to be more careful – the main recommendation to pull out a safety review meeting.

The vice-president of the regional government of Valencia, Aitana Mas, left the door open to the debate on whether to ban these kinds of parties, saying that the current legislation is “not sufficient”.

Only a few villages have canceled these festivals. Tavernes de la Valldigna is one that has done so and sees it as a matter of staying in step with its animal welfare policy.

“I hope our decision will take the debate further to the streets and lead to the end of this tradition,” Mayor Sergi Gonzalez told The Associated Press, while acknowledging the tradition’s deep cultural roots.

While public debate in Spain has largely focused on the loss of life, activists are calling for a total ban on events where animals are used for entertainment.

Animal welfare groups are particularly opposed to events they say are deliberately crueler to animals, such as when cotton balls are lit on the horns of bulls or when the animal is forced into the sea and then brought back. down.

Events known in the Valencian dialect as “Bous al carrer” or Bulls on the street, involve bulls or calves being released into the streets to waiting crowds who attempt to provoke them into charging.

Alejandro Cano, president of the Bous al Carrer defense associations, sees no cause for concern, telling the AP that the victims “are part of the festival”.

Some bulls are fought and killed by matadors but most return to their farms.

According to the Ministry of Culture, some 2,700 such performances took place last year. The amount was reduced from a regular season due to some pandemic restrictions still in place. In 2019, there were 17,000. This year, around 9,000 should take place until the end of November.

The San Fermin bullfight in Pamplona, ​​immortalized by Nobel Prize winner and novelist Ernest Hemingway, is the main event, but there has been no death for 13 years. The security measures, the public investment and the professionalism of the runners are unmatched in any other small Spanish festival.

Atanzon will continue to celebrate its patron saint, San Agustin, in the same way as Pamplona – praying to the saint that no one be killed by bulls for another summer.

A bull chases revelers during a bull festival run in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. The death of eight people and the injury of hundreds more after Being gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s immensely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Photo A reveler tries a bull during a bullfighting festival in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. The death of eight people and the injury of hundreds more after being gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s immensely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Photo Tamed bulls lead a bull during a bullfighting festival in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. The death of eight people and the injury of hundreds more after being Gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s immensely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Photo Revelers stand on wooden barriers to watch a bullfighting festival in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. Eight people died and hundreds more were injured being gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s hugely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Photo A bull takes aim during a bullfighting festival in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. The death of eight people and the injury of hundreds more after being gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s immensely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Photo A bull chases a reveler during a bull festival run in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. The death of eight people and the injury of hundreds more after Been gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s immensely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Photo A bull chases revelers during a bull festival run in the village of Atanzon, central Spain, Monday, August 29, 2022. The death of eight people and the injury of hundreds more after Being gored by bulls or calves have put Spain’s immensely popular city summer festivals under the scrutiny of politicians and animal rights groups. There were no deaths or injuries at Atanzon. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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