In some towns all over Spain traditional festivities are held which make use of animals with the aim of injuring or killing them. Originally these traditions with animals served for young men to prove their manhood, either for their coming of age or to make it clear who was the strongest.
Although things have come a long way in many aspects of life since that was seen as something normal, there are still many towns which hold these bloody celebrations, maintaining the animal abuse and violence which characterise them.
Sometimes the use of these animals is justified by saying that they belong to domesticated species which are bred especially for slaughter and they will be killed for human consumption anyway. Other times the fallacy used is that the animals don’t suffer or that they have a higher pain threshold than humans. This is clearly far from the truth, as science has been able to prove.
In Spain there are still about 3,000 local festivals in which animals are abused.
The point is that animals are still being assaulted, injured and murdered in the name of culture all year round and all over Spain. Luckily some towns are aware that these grotesque acts foster violence between people and hurt animals –when they are not actually killed –therefore there are some towns which have decided to abolish these festivities, or substitute animals for objects. A good example of this is the "Boloencierro" in Mataelpino, Madrid, where during there annual bull run they have replaced the bulls with a polystyrene ball.
Below is a list of some examples of festivities still being held in Spain, year after year, classified by species:
Peropalo de Villanueva de la Vera, Cáceres: during the part of the festivity known as "corrida de elecciones" a donkey is led through the town ridden by a person dressed up as the "peropalo". Meanwhile the entire town crowds around them and makes fun of them. The donkey is pushed, rocked and sprayed with different types of drinks all along the route. Video Donkey of Peropalo.
Romería del Rocío, Almonte, Huelva: horses, donkeys and oxen are used each year for the journey to the hermitage of "El Rocío", which crosses Doñana National Park and the river Gadalquivir, and may be several dozen kilometres long depending where the journey begins. Every year several animals die of thirst and the excessive effort to which they are subjected. In 2016 13 equids died and 200 more had to be nursed. It has been calculated that since 2007 about 120 horses have died. Along with the effort and lack of water we should add the wounds and multiple scrapes caused by the mounts, headbands and nose bands that adorn them. Video The other side of El Rocío from PACMA.
Rapa das Bestas, in Sabucedo, Pontevedra: several horses, which are kept in mountain pastures the rest of the year, are led to a small enclosure, where they can hardly move. There the “aloitadores” use their strength to cut their mane. Video Rapa das Bestas from La Sexta.
Las Luminarias de San Antonio Abad, Alosno, Huelva; Ávila and other places: horses, mules and donkeys are forced to jump over several bonfires in order to be “purified” and supposedly freed from diseases. Despite being beliefs from the middle ages, there are still some towns in Spain (Vilanova d’Alcolea, Castellón among others) where this celebration is maintained and held year after year, without taking into consideration the fear the equids may have of the fire and that they may suffer from burns. Video Las Luminarias from San Antonio Abad in CanalSur.
Duck releasing, Valdés, Asturias and other places: each year several ducks are released into the water at the beach of Cueva, for the bathers to chase and catch. Ducks are fresh water animals, they are not suited to salty sea water. Furthermore, they suffer from stress with a lot of people chasing them and picking them up roughly or violently. In Puerto de Sagunto, Valencia, several court rulings have condemned this practice as animal abuse. Video Duck release in Roses.
Cockfighting in the Canary Islands and Andalusia: in the Canary Islands cockfighting is legal and according to the authorities 1,100 licenses have been issued for this activity. The President of the Canaries Cockfighting Federation points out that about 5-10% of the cocks die during a fight. There is no data on cocks who die following a bout, after returning home, and there is no mention of the suffering or injuries that the animals endure during and after the fight.
In Andalusia these exhibitions are also regulated and called "riñas de gallos" (cock quarrels). The only difference between them and cockfights is that the animals don't die in the pits and the aim of the practice is genetic selection of the Andalusian breed. The fights between cocks may last 15-25 minutes.
Turkey launching, Cazalilla, Jaen: during the festivities of San Blas, a turkey is thrown from the bell tower each year. Despite the complaints of animal abuse and the town having received a fine 12 years running for allowing this activity, the tradition continues because the townsfolk all chip in to pay the ridiculously low fine. Since 2016 more drastic measures have been taken to finish with this tradition. Video of the bell tower of Cazadilla in EFE VERDE.
Quintos y corridas de gansos, Carpio del Tajo, Toledo; Lekeito, Vizcaya and other places: the young people of the town pull on the neck of the geese hanging upside down from a rope until they manage to pull off its head, the winner is the person who collects most heads. It is held in many Spanish towns and, although the geese are already dead when hung up, they have to be killed previously in order to be placed there. Video of the Carpio de Tajo in Periódico de Castilla-La Mancha.
Agarrada dos Porcos, A Valenzá, Orense: four small pigs covered in grease are released so that the children or young people chase after them and try to grab hold off them. This festival is currently considered illegal and is fined. Video Agarrada dos Porcos.
Pig raffles in Castilla la Mancha, Castilla León, Andalusia and the region of Valencia; and other places: throughout the day pigs are on show in a cage and the townsfolk buy raffle tickets. The prizes are the pigs, and the winners may do as they please with the lives of the pigs.
Battle of rats, en El Puig, Valencia: rats are killed and used as ammunition in a fight between the people of the town. Video Battle of rats in El Puig from PACMA.
Medició dels espies, in Biar, Alicante: during the festival a jar containing several mice and hamsters is broken and the participants chase after them and catch them or stamp on them to squash them. Video Festivals of Biar from OJDA.
At the state level