Throughout Spain local festivals are organised with traditional dances, parades, costumes and Christmas carriages. In these celebrations it is common for animals to be dressed up or acting as transport or traction for a float or carriages. Camels, horses, goats, donkeys, sheep, geese and oxen may be seen parading among people and even zebras, bears and elephants are forced to walk the streets in certain celebrations.
These types of parades always have loud music, lights and even firecrackers or fireworks. Furthermore, many of the people in the crowds take photos with flash. All these factors scare and stress the animals involved as they all belong to species which are not used to this type of stimulus. Also being removed from their habitat and having to walk on a the pavement, a surface that are not naturally familiar with, compounds the problem. Neither do they have time to stop, being part of a procession and having more floats behind them forces them to keep moving forward, despite their tiredness.
Animals from out of town or from other countries must be brought in by trailer with little space, and the journey may be many hours. During the procession the animals must carry o pull heavy loads, maybe even exceeding the maximum recommended weight. Tiredness and lack of access to water may be highly damaging to their health. The tethers used to guide them cause injuries and wounds in their fur.
These problems affect all animals, whether domestic or wild. When talking of wild animals, we should add the serious risk to the general public. Remember that even though they may have been born in captivity, they are animals which have unpredictable behaviour and physical characteristics which makes them potentially dangerous. We should also take into consideration the number of wild animals coming from illegal trade and illegal capture from their natural habitat. During these celebrations wild animals have been seen to perform completely artificial acts just to make the crowd laugh, such as, for example, bears playing the trumpet.
Although many towns in Spain, and even entire autonomous regions, have taken a stance against circuses with animals (because of the conditions and lack of animal well-being, lack of safety for the general public and not offering any educational value), they still allow these types of parades which have the same negative characteristics as circuses with animals.
The people watching the parade don’t know the origins of the animals, how they have been trained or how they live the rest of the year. Nobody tells them what species they are, what their natural habitat is or what their natural behaviour is like. In other words, the animals are only on show to to be eye candy for the crowd, nothing is said about them. In fact, the message sent by allowing these activities, whose only end is entertainment, goes against conservation of species and respect for animals.
Luckily, more and more town councils are opting to not give permission for the appearance of either domestic or wild animals in their pageants and parades. There are still people who criticise this in spite of the technical and veterinary reports upon which the authorities base their decisions.
At the state level