Thousands of revelers are celebrating the return of Pamplona’s famous bull-running festival, but animal rights groups are calling for a permanent ban on the event.
Festival-goers dressed in white and red scarves filled the streets of Spanish Pamplona on Wednesday as fireworks exploded to kick off San Fermin’s first bull-running festival since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, dozens of animal rights activists dressed as dinosaurs protested in Pamplona, chanting “Prehistoric bullfighting!”
“Many tourists who come and participate in the bullfight don’t really realize that the very same bulls they run with through the cobbled streets are later killed in the arena on the same day,” one protester said.
“They are beaten again and again for 20 minutes until they die, and it is incredibly cruel and painful for the bulls that go through this process.”
The races, during which six specially bred fighting bulls chase runners through the narrow streets of Pamplona’s Old Quarter for 800 meters, will start on Thursday and continue throughout the week, including weekends, when they are usually most dangerous because of large crowds.
There are eight heats in total, each typically lasting between three and five minutes.
They end up in a bullring where the animals are corralled before reappearing at an evening bullfight when they are killed by professional matadors.
The festival is also dangerous for humans. At least 16 runners have died over the years, the latest being a man gored by a bull in 2009.
The event was made world famous by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.
Before the pandemic made it impossible to hold it in 2020 and 2021, it had not been suspended since the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
Pamplona’s population of around 200,000 swells to almost a million on peak days during the festival, especially on weekends, including many foreigners.
Many visitors do not stop having fun all night or go to bed wherever possible outside.