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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 11:47 GMT
Spanish don't get their goat

goat aloft High up, but it could have been higher.




A goat due to be hurled from a church belfry in Spain has managed to keep four hooves a little closer to solid ground.

The annual San Vicente de Martir ritual at the village of Manganeses de la Polvorosa in Northern Spain, was cancelled after participants were threatened with heavy fines.

After years of protests from animal rights campaigners, the local authorities said they would fine people up to fifteen thousand dollars each if they went ahead with the tradition.

But that did not stop a crowd of several hundred people, many dressed in carnival costumes, from gathering in the tiny square below the church bell tower.


crowd A man holds a poster which reads "Enough, yes for the goat"
By late afternoon, some revellers had begun chanting "Toss the goat! Toss the goat!"

A group of young people arrived with a goat and were greeted by cheers. But they backed down when nobody responded to their request to help pay their fines if they were punished.

The goat was led away.

Obscure tradition

The origins of the village's tradition are unclear but one legend has it that a priest's goat whose milk fed the poor, fell from the bell tower and was saved by townspeople stretching out a blanket.

Despite a fall of 15 metres, the goat is not always hurt in the hurling ritual as villagers hold a tarpaulin underneath to catch it.

Animal rights activists still claim the practice is barbaric, pointing out that some goats do die and those which survive have gone through unnecessary fear.

Protests in 1992 persuaded the local governor to ban the toss and that year the goat was lowered on ropes. But a year later the tradition was resumed.

Spain's National Association of Animal Welfare and Protection had reported agreement had been reached to use a stuffed goat this year but it never materialised
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See also:
23 Jan 00 |  Europe
Reprieve for goat in hurling ritual
06 Jul 99 |  Europe
Cruelty charge for bull run
25 Jan 98 |  World
Spanish ceremony gets Lorelay's goat

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