Bulls Tortured, Stabbed: What You Don’t Know About the Running of the Bulls

Most tourists who go to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, seem oblivious to the fact that these animals will be dead in just hours.

The Running of the Bulls is a deadly event held at the San Fermín festival every year during the first week of July. Each morning, a rocket is launched to terrify six bulls—who are naturally high-strung and skittish—so that they’ll charge onto city streets lined by screaming tourists, who frequently hit them as they pass. The panicked animals slip and slide down the narrow streets and often smash into walls, sustaining broken bones and other injuries. This violent atmosphere encourages violence against women as well. There are numerous reports of sexual assaults during the “festivities.”

The entire spectacle is really a death march.

Every evening, one by one, the bulls are forced into the bullring. Each bull first faces the picadors (men on horses), who jab him with a lance. It’s thrust into his back and neck muscles, then twisted and driven deeper to ensure significant blood loss.

Next, banderilleros (men with brightly colored harpoons) plunge their weapons into the bull’s back, causing intense pain. They make him run in circles until, dizzy, disoriented, exhausted, and weak from blood loss, he gives up.

Finally, the matador (which means “killer” in Spanish) enters and attempts to kill the bull by stabbing him in the back with a long sword, aiming at his aorta or lungs. If that doesn’t kill him, the matador uses other weapons, including daggers, to cut his spinal cord. Bulls are often left paralyzed but still conscious as their ears and tail are cut off and presented to the matador as trophies. As the bull draws his last breath, he’s chained by the horns and dragged out of the arena.

A bloodied bull is taunted by a matador during a bullfight. San Sebastian de los Reyes, Madrid, Spain, 2010.

Only a coward stands over a bleeding, exhausted, dying animal and stabs him to death—and then demands applause.

But the tide is turning against this blood sport. Thanks, in part, to global campaigns by PETA entities and other animal rights groups, the vast majority of people around the world are opposed to abusing and slaughtering bulls for entertainment. Today, more than 125 Spanish towns and cities have declared themselves anti-bullfighting, and three of the autonomous regions of Spain—the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, and Catalonia—have banned the barbaric spectacle. All opinion polls in all countries that allow bullfighting show that a majority of the public opposes it.

Because of local and international opposition, the number of official bullfights in Spain and other countries has been decreasing since 2007. Tourists—mainly from Australia, France, Latin America, the U.K., and the U.S.—keep bullfighting and the Running of the Bulls alive in Pamplona. When tourists stop visiting the city during the festival, organizers won’t have the funds to continue this deadly event.

We no longer tolerate gladiators fighting lions to the death. So why are we still letting matadors torture bulls to death?

This isn’t entertainment. This is a ritualized execution of an innocent victim. And it’s wrong.

Stand with PETA as well as the majority of people in Spain and demand an end to the practice of torturing animals for human entertainment. Sign our petition calling on Spain’s prime minister to ban bullfights and bull runs nationwide.

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