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An 'uncivilized' vacation
I read with disgust the article by Vic Tharenou, "Pamplona: A rite of passage" in the Pique's Travel and Adventure section (Jan 10), applauding and promoting the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. It seems incredible to me that anyone, especially a travel writer, would be unaware of the barbaric cruelty attached to this so-called festival. Anything that promotes the enjoyment of the torture and cruel death of animals for human entertainment, is something that can never be justified by calling it "tradition."
Was the author aware that these unfortunate bulls are running to a vicious and bloody death in the arena? During his excitement and pride was he aware at all of the reality that lurks behind what he calls "one of the world's great festivals?" Allow me to relate the facts, if you can bear to read them.
Prior to being released into the streets, the bulls are confined to dark pens where they are sometimes debilitated by laxatives and often drugged; several inches of their horns are often sawn off, which impairs a bull's ability to coordinate its movements. The organizers may also smear petroleum jelly into their eyes to impair their vision. Finally, the terrified animals are released, goaded into the streets with electric prods, where, blinded by the sudden sunlight they slip and slide in a panicked stampede towards the mindless drunken lunatics who flee before them. The bulls frequently slip and fall or crash into walls, sustaining broken bones and other injuries.
At the conclusion of the run, while the idiot humans who ran with them retire to the nearest bar to celebrate their machismo, the bulls are led one by one into the bullring for a one-sided "fight" they have no chance of winning, and which will end in a tortured and painful death.
First, the bull is stabbed by picadors who drive lances into the bull's neck and shoulder muscles, impairing its ability to fully lift its head; the lances are twisted in order to obtain maximum blood loss. The picadors ride blindfolded horses which sometimes have their vocal cords severed so they cannot scream in terror, and which are often gored by the bulls.
Next, the banderillos take over, driving banderillas (harpoon-like sticks) into the bull's back. By now weakened by blood loss and pain, the bull is further goaded and tormented before our brave hero arrives — the matador, or killer in Spanish. The matador provokes the exhausted animal into a few charges before stabbing it with his sword. If he misses, an executioner enters, to sever the bull's spinal cord. The matador may slice off the bull's ears, tail or hooves, as a "trophy." Often, the paralyzed bull is still alive and conscious, when it is dragged out by chains attached to its horns.