I’m protesting against a horrific practice that demands our urgent attention – for the sake of animals and women: the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona’s San Fermín festival.
When people let off flares, they do it to draw others’ attention to an emergency situation requiring their attention – and that’s exactly why I’m pictured here shooting a blood-red flare into the sky.
Numerous studies have found a clear link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans.
A large number of Aussies travel to Pamplona to take part in the bull runs every year, and they’re all seemingly oblivious to the fact that every single one of the terrified animals they chase through the cobbled streets will be dead a few hours later, after being repeatedly stabbed in a bullfight. You’ve no doubt seen photos from this infamous event of adrenaline junkies clinging to barriers as massive bulls run past them. For these reckless humans, it’s a game – something to tick off the bucket list. But for the bulls, it’s sheer terror as they race towards certain death in the bullring.
Prior to the run, bulls are confined to small, dark rooms for what will be the last night of their lives. The next morning, they’re forced out into the blinding sunlight. As they stumble about, disorientated, men jab at them with electric prods. Attempting to escape the pain, the confused animals tear off down the city’s narrow streets.
Along the way, crowds of humans scream at them and hit them with various objects. Panicking now, they run as fast as they can, slipping on the cobblestones and crashing into the sides of buildings as more and more raucous humans appear in their path. They often fall and even break bones in their desperate bid to flee to safety.
But their nightmare doesn’t end when the run is over. You see, the Running of the Bulls is only the lead-up to the main event: a bullfight. Once each exhausted bull has been herded into the bullring, he’s set upon by as many as eight men, who taunt him, beat him, and jab him with daggers, over and over again, as the spectators cheer. When the wounded animal is on the verge of collapse, the matador arrives to finish him off, repeatedly stabbing him with a sword in order to pierce his heart. But the matador often misses the mark and instead punctures the bull’s lungs, leaving him drowning to death in his own blood as he’s dragged out of the ring.
The violence associated with the Running of the Bulls and bullfights isn’t limited to attacks on animals. Each year, there are multiple reports of sexual assault and rape during the San Fermín festival, making it increasingly clear that these inhumane spectacles need to be banned to protect animals and humans.
Numerous studies have found a clear link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans. Both stem from a lack of empathy towards others and a sick impulse to prey on vulnerable individuals. One study by the Massachusetts SPCA and Northeastern University found that “people who abused animals were five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people.”
In 2016, feminist icon Gloria Steinem signed a PETA UK petition to the Mayor of Pamplona denouncing the violence and cruelty to animals associated with the event and calling for the bull runs and bullfights to be banned. The petition, which was also signed by a united front of more than 20 women’s, children’s, and animal organisations – representing more than 5 million members and supporters – followed allegations of 11 sexual assaults, four rapes, and one attempted rape perpetrated against women, children, and men during the San Fermín festival that year. In one alleged gang rape, five men attacked a 19-year-old woman.
Putting an end to bullfighting is as much a feminist cause as it is an animal rights one. Just as there’s no justifiable reason for oppressing, objectifying, exploiting, and hurting women, there’s no excuse for doing the same to any other living being. Animals deserve to live free from harm and to have control over what happens to their bodies, just as women do. This cruel blood sport and the bloodlust-fuelled sexual violence that accompanies it must be stopped.
To be clear: if you travel to Pamplona to run with bulls, you share responsibility for the animals’ long, painful, and terrifying deaths and are funding an event that puts women and children at risk. It’s time we united in our struggle against violence and took the Running of the Bulls off our bucket lists.