What Happens During the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona

Every year, a barbaric bloodbath takes place at the San Fermín festival in Pamplona, Spain – and most people are totally unaware of it. Many of the tourists who visit the city during the festival don’t realise that the same bulls who slip and slide down the cobbled streets during the bull runs are later tortured to death in the bullring. Altogether, across the entire San Fermín festival, at least 48 bulls are barbarically stabbed to death. This is their story:

The Run

During the annual Running of the Bulls at the San Fermín festival, the organisers imprison bulls and steers in crowded enclosures and then release them onto the streets.

Panic-stricken, the bulls herd together to find safety with the steers, who have been trained to move the herd towards the bullring while a terrifying mob of runners (most of them tourists) chases them.

After being chased about 800 metres uphill through the narrow streets, the bulls are corralled into the bullring. They’re kept here ahead of the evening bullfights, which, unbeknownst to many participating in the run, will almost certainly result in a violent death sentence for every single one of them.

The Bullfight

The cruelty described below is not unique to the San Fermín festival. It’s estimated that at least 7,000 bulls endured this horror in Spanish bullrings last year.

A typical Spanish bullfight starts when the bull enters the arena and the bullfighters approach him. Right from the get-go, the bullfighters push the bull to exhaustion, making him run from one end of the arena to the other.

Once the bull is fatigued, a man on a blindfolded horse enters the arena. He drives a lance into the bull’s back, causing the animal to bleed. The blood loss is meant to frighten and weaken the bull as more men enter on foot and proceed to plunge banderillas – sticks with a harpoon point on one end – into the bull’s upper back, causing him acute pain whenever he turns his head.

The Execution

When the bull is fatigued by the blood loss and the relentless harassment, the matador (which literally means “killer”) makes his final appearance. After provoking a few charges from the exhausted bull, he aims to kill him by stabbing him between the shoulder blades and through the heart with a sword.

If the bull doesn’t die straight away, the matador will use a dagger or another weapon to sever his spinal cord and finally kill him.


Many people who attend bullfights are horrified by what they see and would never have bought a ticket if they’d known how violent it would be. One journalist describes feeling sick, his stomach churning, as he saw blood dripping from the wounded bull.

Another reporter recounts his experience of attending a bullfight as a child, describing it as traumatising. By that point, though, it’s too late: the bullfighting industry has already pocketed the money, and the bull has endured a torturous, ritualistic death that no amount of remorse can undo. The only way to shut down this abusive industry is by refusing to support it in any way.

What You Can Do for Bulls

Please urge the mayor of Pamplona to end the Running of the Bulls and subsequent bullfights during the San Fermín festival immediately.

Year after year, more Spanish people express their opposition to cruel bullfights, and fewer and fewer take place. In 2021, there was a 42% decrease in bullfights compared to 2019. But thrill-seekers fail to realise that running with the bulls means participating in a festival in which animals are tortured to death.

Please, don’t contribute to the torture and killing of these majestic animals – stay away from the San Fermín festival. And please share this feature on social media to tell your friends and family about the reality of bullfights and the Running of the Bulls.