The naked protest

Animal rights group Peta are staging a naked protest at the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Here B

Pamplona is a city rich in history, architecture, and art. Yet it also has inexorably grown into a modern urban hub abounding in industry, education, and technology. The time has come for the city to say goodbye to the last bastion of incivility: the cruel Running of the Bulls and the gruesome and cruel bull slaughter that follows.

In the Running of the Bulls, held during Pamplona’s San Fermin Festival, bulls are jolted with electric prods and poked with sharp sticks to get them riled up and ready to bolt. The terrorized animals then run down slippery, narrow streets surrounded by frenzied crowds of (mostly drunk) people who scream at them and pelt them with rocks and sticks. The petrified animals are often injured when they slip and fall and careen into each other and into buildings. The runs conclude with bullfights, which occur every day during the weeklong festival.

Already debilitated by the run, the bulls are further weakened by being beaten and having their horns shaved to throw off their balance. Before the “fights”—which are, of course, not fights at all, since the fatal outcome for the animals is predetermined—each of the 50 bulls who is slated to die horribly is kept in darkness so that he will be blinded when he is forced to enter the arena. He will be repeatedly stabbed with knives (called banderillas) until he collapses and dies in a pool of blood. His torment is prolonged, and his wails of agony echo throughout the ring. He is likely to be conscious as his ears and tail are cut off as “trophies”, and he will be dragged from the ring on chains. All told, bullfighting has caused immeasurable suffering and death to millions of bulls, each one an individual with a personality every bit as interesting and nuanced as any dog or cat.

This year, 50 members of PETA and the Spanish animal rights group AnimaNaturalis, representing the 50 bulls who will be killed during the San Fermin Festival, will hold a nude “die in” two days before the Running of the Bulls. Protestors from around the world will lie “bloodied” on the street, “speared” with banderillas piercing their backs. The protest are re-enacting an ad starring international singer and actor Alaska, who appeared naked next to the tagline "The Naked Truth: Bullfighting Is Cruel".
Millions of Spanish citizens have signed a petition to ban bullfighting forever, and several Spanish cities have outlawed this morally repugnant practice. Seventy-two percent of Spaniards show no interest in bullfighting – which is up from 54 percent in the 1980’s, and state-run Spanish television discontinued live coverage of bullfighting deeming it “too violent” for children.

Navarre, the region in which Pamplona is located, enjoys a great deal of cultural sophistication, technological advances, linquistic excellence, and political autonomy. Navarre, for example, leads Europe in its use of renewable energy and intends to reach 100% renewable electricity within the next few years. The cosmopolitan sway the region holds is partly why so many citizens of Pamplona are opposed to bullfights. Remarkably, bullfighting is heavily subsidised in Spain by local, regional and national governments. Instead of money going toward programs that could help people and that the Spanish people support, millions of euros are handed to an industry that the majority of Spaniards oppose.

As a Roman Catholic, I am disgusted that Saint Fermin’s memory is polluted by a massive debauched celebration of cruelty to animals that is straight out of the dark ages, and PETA is calling on the Vatican and Spanish Bishops to denounce this barbarity in no uncertain terms.

If the Church were to condemn the San Fermin festival’s abuse of God’s creatures for the deeply sinful moral atrocity that it is—an obligation for any Church that wishes to claim authority on the moral issues of the day—the cruel festival would be, finally, relegated to the dustbin of history with past atrocities that were carried out by the Church or with tacit Church support, from the Inquisition to the slave trade.