I Was Proud to Be in Pamplona This Weekend, but I Was Also Glad to Leave
This weekend, I was in Pamplona to help out at the demonstration organised by PETA and AnimaNaturalis protesting against the cruelty of the annual San Fermín festival.
The event was a tremendous experience. Around 150 activists, mainly from Spain, took part, although some were from all corners of Europe. The atmosphere was electric.
Although the issue we were raising awareness of is very serious (after all, we’re talking about the torture and killing of 50 animals in cold blood during bullfights), being there was actually very uplifting. Everyone was so passionate and committed to speaking up for animals.
These two ladies proudly showed me souvenirs from the Running of the Nudes demonstration in 2005. They’ve been coming to protest every year since then.
And we know the world is taking note. A crowd gathered to watch the protest, including photographers from the international media.
After the protest, we had some time to explore the city. Even though it was a couple of days before the San Fermín festival started, we could already see the preparations.
The festival isn’t really for Spanish people – it’s for foreign tourists. Ernest Hemingway has a lot to answer for!
The wooden barriers pictured below mark the route where the bulls will run. Those grooves are marks made by the bulls’ horns in previous years, as they hurtle through the narrow streets and crash against the sides.
As the streets began to fill up with foreigners, we were horrified by the idea that people might mistake us for some of the ignorant tourists who had come to take part in San Fermín. “Are you running tomorrow, ladies?” an American couple asked us. “Definitely not – we’re for the animals”, we replied.
This is the bullring. It’s where the real bloodshed will occur later in the week. Many of the tourists who come to San Fermín don’t even realise that the animals they chase through the streets will end up being killed here. It was also the site of our protest.
This is the grisly fate that awaits the bulls:
Many local people are unhappy about the carnage that takes place on their streets every year. This Basque graffiti calls out bullfighting as torture.
This is Eva, who lives in Pamplona and came to the protest:
— PETA UK (@PETAUK) July 10, 2015
Feminists have been protesting against the San Fermín festival, too, because of allegations of sexual harassment among the revellers. Drinking too much, groping women and killing animals – it’s no wonder the majority of Spanish people want nothing to do with this “tradition”!
One of the hardest things I did this weekend was going to see the bulls in their pens before the festival.
They looked so tranquil, with nothing aggressive about them. It was heart-breaking knowing what horrors awaited them later in the week.
Many families had come to see the bulls as well. Some of the children were even wearing red-splattered San Fermín T-shirts. I wonder how much these kids understand about how the animals will suffer when they are slowly stabbed to death in the bullring.
Pamplona is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains and with plenty of sunshine. It has museums, historic buildings and buzzing nightlife and doesn’t need bullfighting events to attract tourists.
And it’s also vegan-friendly! We cooled down with delicious vegan sorbet and enjoyed traditional Spanish dishes such as gazpacho and patatas bravas.
We also paid a visit to the wonderful vegan restaurant Baratza Kafea and feasted on delicious, healthy plant-based food.
This city has a lot to offer. But ultimately, knowing about the violence that takes place in the bullring every July, I couldn’t truly enjoy spending time there. Nor would I recommend it as a travel destination to any of my friends.
Nonetheless, after speaking to local people about how they feel about the event and learning that the new Mayor of Pamplona plans to hold a public consultation on the future of the bull run in the city, I feel hopeful that its days are numbered. Around 100 Spanish towns and cities have already banned bullfights. Pamplona could be next. Change is on its way in Spain. One day, we will stop bullfighting and the barbaric Running of the Bulls forever.