Today the traditional firework set off from the Town Hall marks the beginning of the San Fermín fiestas in Pamplona and yesterday over 200 anti-bullfighting protesters organized a demostration in the town asking for the fiestas to be cancelled.
The San Fermín fiestas are Pamplona’s biggest tourist attraction and thousands of national and international visitors mix with local people each year. Each morning they run through the streets with the bulls due to appear that afternoon in the bullring, in a spectacle which is either enthralling (Hemingway of course was a big admirer of the Pamplona fiestas, as was Picasso) or sick, depending on your views on animal rights, blood sports and Spanish culture.
Last year protesters wanted to walk through Pamplona naked in protest to the fiestas, but police prevented the nude march. This year, police and protesters reached an agreement whereby the people taking part in the demo walked in minimum clothing (as opposed to stark naked)through the streets used each morning for the bull run, shouting “torture is not culture” (“tortura no es cultura“) in direct reference to the main defence always put forward by supporters of bullfighting, who argue that bullfights form a central part of Spanish culture and tradition.
One of the protesters is reported in El País as saying “Slaves and gladiators also formed part of a tradition, but that doesn’t mean you can justify them”. Although the protesters managed to get their voices heard and most Spanish papers this morning mention the demostration, it is of course doubtful that they will change the Pamplona fiestas. Barcelona is the only city in Spain whose municipal authorities have officially expressed their opposition to bullfighting.
Meanwhile, Pamplona’s emergency medical services are preparing themselves for a busy few days. It is not uncommon for people to get injured or even killed during the bull runs (usually foreign participants), and this year the council has published special leaflets warning against the dangers of running along the streets to the bullring with the bulls (“people who run in the wrong way put their life and that of others at risk”) and giving advice to newcomers on how to behave and where to run.