The Running of the Bulls is a Spanish tradition in which people run in front of and alongside small groups of bulls that have been let loose on a course of a sectioned-off area of a town’s streets. The goal is to transport the bulls from off-site stables where they had spent the night, to the bullring where they will later be killed in a traditional bullfight.
This tradition has become extremely popular with thrill-seekers and young adults who want to feel an adrenaline rush while running side by side with the bulls. Some youngsters have even been known to jump among the bulls to show off their bravado.
Although The Running of the Bulls takes place in many towns, cities, and villages, including Portugal, Peru and Mexico, the most famous Running of the Bulls takes place in Pamplona, Spain every year from July 6 through July 14. The runs, eight in all, are the highlight of a nine-day street festival to honor Pamplona’s patron saint, San Fermin. The Pamplona runs, which were made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, begin each morning at 8 a.m. during the festival.
USA Today and The Huffington Post World reported yesterday that at least 23 people were injured Saturday in the Pamplona bull run. Apparently, thrill-seekers fleeing the bulls were crushed at the narrow entrance to the bullring. Two of the injuries were gorings, and the others were hurt in the stampede. It was reported that one runner, a 19 year-old Spaniard from Vitoria city, was seriously injured when his thorax was crushed at the bull ring entrance.
It was further reported that, on Friday, the festival drew attention when an American college student and two Spaniards were gored, and videos and photos of the attacks were seen around the world.
These news reports are disturbing on so many levels. I am teary-eyed right now thinking about the horrible way in which these people, many of them the same age as my older son, were injured. My heart goes out to them and their families, and I truly hope they make full recoveries. It should be noted that in the past, fatalities have also occurred as a result of the bull runs. The last fatal goring happened in 2009.
What is as equally disturbing to me as the horrific injuries sustained by people in bull runs, is the sad truth that many people choose to get their kicks from exploiting and messing with animals, with the ultimate goal of watching them die. Why do such barbaric traditions still have a place in our modern world? Is it really so much fun to run on narrow, slippery streets with stampedes of agitated animals, where serious injuries are bound to happen? And for what? To get the bulls into a ring to watch them bleed and die? Should this really be at the heart of a nine-day festival?
It seems to me that when we exploit and mess with animals in the ways that we do (and, in my opinion, the Running of the Bulls certainly qualifies as “messing with and exploiting animals”), Mother Nature will take over and the animals will have no choice but to fight back with their “animal instincts.” I think this is pretty obvious, don’t you?
I also think that it’s time for Spain to seriously consider changing their traditions. Wouldn’t it be so much better to honor San Fermin, their patron saint, with more peaceful festivities? Wouldn’t a saint have appreciated that? What about the Running of the Nudes, PETA’s annual alternative to the Running of the Bulls? Running naked through some crowded streets in a beautiful town in Spain sure sounds like it could be lots of fun for young adults too, don’t you think? I would venture to guess that my 19 year-old son and his college frat buddies would really enjoy that. And wouldn’t they get some great Instagram photos along the way?
What do you think?