Jennifer White: Taking the bull by the horns to end Pamplona bloodshed

Jennifer White among the protesters covered in powdered 'blood' to campaign against the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
Jennifer White among the protesters covered in powdered 'blood' to campaign against the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
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I HAVE lived in Edinburgh my entire life – I went to school and university in the city – but two years ago, I left for a new adventure and a new career campaigning for animal rights.

When I’m not researching new vegan foods or working on videos promoting animal rights, I’m sparring at my local boxing gym. But my biggest ‘fight’ to date – and one that I’ll remember for the rest of my days – involved standing naked in Pamplona, Spain, and covering myself with ­powdered ‘blood’.

While that blood was fake, the blood of the bulls who are stabbed to death in the city’s bullring is very real. And that’s why I was there – alongside about 100 other protesters – to take a stand.

The moment when we gathered in the Plaza Consistorial, the focal point of the San Fermín festival, was powerful. We were all streaked with warrior-style black paint and held banderilla props. We filled the square with a roar of chants and clouds of ‘blood’. Our goal was to inform those who simply don’t know of the bulls’ fate.

Travel agents promote the annual Running of the Bulls as some kind of bucket list goal. But tourists aren’t told that at the end of each day, the weary bulls are led one-by-one into the bullring to fight to the death – always theirs. Men on horses run them in circles while repeatedly stabbing them with daggers and harpoon-like banderillas until they’re dizzy, weakened from blood loss, and in agonising pain. The horses, who are blindfolded, may also sustain serious injuries if they’re unable to avoid a charging bull.

The matador (Spanish for ‘killer’) enters the arena only when the exhausted bull is already near death. The tormented animal may still be conscious as his ears and tail are cut off as trophies and he’s dragged out of the ring in chains.

The number of people who condemn this blood sport far exceeds the number who defend it. Even in Madrid, widely considered its birthplace, thousands have marched in the streets calling for an end to the carnage. As one protester put it: “Bullfights are a national shame and if they represent me, then I am not Spanish.”

After a Spanish court overturned Catalonia’s 2010 ban on bullfighting, there was outrage in the region, and government officials vowed that the decision would not mean that bullfights would resume.

Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, tweeted: “Barcelona has been an anti-bullfighting city since 2004. Whatever the court says, the Catalan capital will not allow animals to be mistreated.”

It’s clear that bullfighting is on its way out. In the plaza on the day of our protest, people were interested in what we were doing, and many expressed their agreement and support.

Some couldn’t believe that this blood sport is still legal. But tourists who attend a bullfight out of curiosity help perpetuate the violence. So if you visit a country where ‘sport’ or ‘tradition’ still involves tormenting and killing animals, please, turn your back on the cruelty.

Jennifer White is media and partnerships co-ordinator at Peta