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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 05:57 GMT 06:57 UK


Head to head: The Pamplona bull run

The bull run in Pamplona remains popular despite charges of cruelty

The BBC's Alasdair Sandford reports on the calls on tourists to boycott Spanish bullfights
Animal rights protesters have begun a new campaign against the annual bull run at Pamplona, in Spain.

They argue that it is a spectacle based on savagery and cruelty, with little regard for the animals at the centre of attention.

But the thousands of people from Spain and across the world who travel to the fiesta each July are evidence that the bull run remains widely popular.

BBC News Online talked to Charo Odescalchi, a Spanish journalist who has watched and admired the bull run on many occasions, and Vicki Moore, who, as chairwoman of Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe, is dedicated to ensuring that bullfighting is brought to an end.

Charo Odescalchi: The bull run at Pamplona is special. The atmosphere is friendly, nobody cares who you are, and they just accept you. You are part of the celebrations and the merrymaking for seven days, and it is wonderful.

[ image:
"Runners are more likely to get hurt than bulls"
The bulls are let out at 7am every day during the fiesta, and they run through the streets of the town into the bull ring.

People can either watch, or they can join in the bull running. Anyone can jump the barriers and join the run into the bullring, and they can do whatever they like - or dare - to do.

The bull doesn't get hurt - it is more likely to be the runners who get hurt. That is one of the problems every year: the bull either knocks someone, or occasionally gores somebody.

Aficionados believe Pamplona is particularly special because they have an opportunity to get close to the bulls. That does not happen normally.

If you see a bull close up, it is a very powerful, very beautiful animal, and it inspires a certain fear and respect.

I think the best person as advocate for the bull run is Hemingway, who has written a great deal about it. The joie de vivre he transmits when he talks about the festival - it's easy to capture this, and to realise why so many people think it is such a wonderful thing.

We are getting rid of so many traditions and things which bring people together that I think it would be a pity to get rid of the bull run.

The bulls do get stressed, but only for a very short while, and it is something which provides for such a good atmosphere and such friendliness among people.

That's so scarce nowadays that that side outweighs the other.

Vicki Moore: "The great adventure where men are men, where we face death and learn the meaning of life." If only!

Pamplona is the false front of a torture industry that has taken advantage of the incredulity of the young men of other lands in search of thrills, who are unable or incapable of seeing what lies behind this event.

Last week I saw bulls stabbed to death on the street, after being stoned and stabbed, with horns set alight.

Their assailants attempted at long range to blind them with hand held lasers. Thousands of bulls, cows and calves die annually on the streets, burned, blinded, castrated alive, speared, drowned. This is the typical scene at encierros, or "bull runnings".

[ image: The false front of a torture industry?]
The false front of a torture industry?
Pamplona, obscure outside Spain until Hemingway, has been recreated to attract thousands of foreign visitors.

The morning's frantic dash ahead of the cabestros and bulls destined for the afternoon's bullfight is over in minutes.

The bulls, corralled, await their death; the runners, corralled in a bar, await a drink, if they can get served.

They may think what they have seen or experienced is typical encierro. I beg to differ.

This jamboree deflects public gaze from the barbarities of the encierros, and bullfights - the continuance of which the participants in Pamplona directly abet.

The Spanish experience is more than encierros and bullfighting, as the 80% of Spaniards against tauromachy would tell them.

Go to Spain, and have a great time - without propping up animal torture.

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