Spain is renowned for its beauty and romantic character, but a long shadow lingers over this rich Mediterranean nation. Deeply implanted in Spanish culture are some of the most offensive animal cruelty traditions known to modern man. Surprisingly, the Spanish government subsidizes many of these events as valuable “cultural” heritage. Small town ignorance has a lot to do with these traditions persisting but the Spanish animal rights movement is gaining ground thanks to groups like Igualdad Animal and Anima Naturalis. Despite the growing popular opposition, these traditions are tenaciously hanging on in over 10,000 towns and villages who fight to protect their bloody heritage.

1. “Corrida de Toros” Bullfighting

“Bullfighting is a stumbling block for the humanization of man.” Eduardo del Rio, Mexican Author

Obviously the most well-known tradition, few realize the blood sport is financed with public money. Despite international and national pressure, these brutal events continue due to the substantial spin-off business revenue. Business lobbyists will fight a ban to protect profit despite the “art’s” place in popular opinion. The rise of global anti-bullfighting cities is encouraging; though without much of a mandate to enforce the bans it remains to be seen how effective they’ll be. Regardless, progressive cities including Castrillón, Vedra, Dodro and Pobra do Brollónare are setting admirable new standards. But there’s still a lot of work to do.

2. “Toro de la Vega” in Tordesillas

“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo. We need a boundless ethic which will include the animals also.” Albert Schweitzer

This bloody festival must go back to the middle ages. A bull is chased through Tordesillas by a throng of spear packing men. One by one the attackers torment and lance the bull as he tries to defend himself. Sometimes, if he’s lucky, he scores instant karma by goring and tossing deserving men high into the air. When the bull finally collapses from blood loss or exhaustion, his testicles are cut off by the “winner”. The prize? A delicious dinner of juicy bull balls. Yes, this is a family event.

3. San Vicente de Martir Festival in Manganeses de la Polyorosa

Whoever thought this one up was one sadistic prick. In Manganeses de la Polvorosa, on the fourth Sunday every January, young men throw an unfortunate goat from top of the church bell tower. Meanwhile, the crowd below is allegedly supposed to catch him in a sheet. If the goat escaped death by falling, he was drowned in the town fountain. Thanks to animal rights groups, 2002 was the last time this small town got their goat. Since then participants have been threatened with $15,000 dollar fines if they should attempt using a live goat for their “good times”.

4. Running of the Bulls in Pamplona

Every morning of the festival is another bull run. Despite hundreds of injuries every year this exuberantly stupid event continues to raise the ire of activists worldwide. It’s considered one of the most important cultural events in Europe next to Oktoberfest. The bulls, who are brought in from the countryside, stampede through the streets thanks to electric cattle prods. They’re disoriented, taunted and terrified in the noise and chaos around them. It’s not known what happens to them after the events.

5. The Pero Palo Festival in Villanueva de la Vera

“Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character; and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” Arthur Schopenhauer

In the mountains of western Spain, the small village of Villanueva de la Vera annually abuses not a bull but a donkey. Shockingly, this festival also involves drunk, sadistic Spaniards tormenting and torturing a helpless animal. The donkey is dragged through the crowded streets while suffering all kinds of abuse long the way. Fanatics yell and chant, slap and strike the animal, fire shotguns, explode firecrackers between his legs and beat him with cowbells. Those donkeys who fall are hoisted up to start over, until the end of the event the donkey is exhausted and locked in a shed. Donkeys often die of stress during the “fun” or are crushed and suffocated in the crowd. The event allegedly reenacts the arrest of a town rapist who was caught and paraded through the streets on a donkey before his stoning execution. Apparently these townsfolk also just hate donkeys.

6. “Rapa das Bestas” in Galicia

One might think “Rapa das Bestas” translates as “Beast Rape”. That may not be far from the truth in this 400 year old tradition of terrorizing wild horses but it’s essentially a primitive form of our western rodeos. One sunny afternoon in Galicia, drunk townsfolk chase herds of wild horses into village streets. There the horses are wrestled by weekend warriors who clips their manes, tails and brand them. Apparently this constitutes a summer holiday in Spain.

7. The Hanging of the Galgos

Hunting is a popular pastime in rural Spain where Spanish Greyhounds “galgos” are used to flush game animals. You might assume that hunters love and care for their valuable hunting dogs right? No. This is Spain are you kidding? At the end of each hare hunting season the dogs are hung by the thousands in village trees. It’s not uncommon to find dead dogs swinging from trees or stuck to fence posts. Animal welfare groups estimate tens of thousands of galgos are bred and murdered each year. As if being hung wasn’t bad enough, some hunters choose instead to stone them to death, tied them up and leave them to starve, drown them in wells or just set them on fire. They are callously seen as disposable tools unworthy of affection nor even a basic standard of care.

8. Baby Quail Catapulting in Valencia

Of all the fun things you could think of doing, blasting baby birds to bits likely wouldn’t come to mind unless you’re from Valencia, or maybe Arkansas. Every year, weeks old baby quail are gathered to be launched from a specially made bird-cannon. Yea, baby birds fired from a cannon, then reduced to small puffs of feathers by shotgun blasts for entertainment. This is a primitive form of clay pigeon shooting and of course, it even draws a crowd.

9. Antzar Eguna “Day of the Geese” in Lekeitio

Apparently the Spanish also hate Geese. At least they do in Lekeitio where for 350 years they’ve pulled the head off a live goose for fun in the name of their patron saint. Because that’s what saints enjoy obviously; unless of course you’re the “Saint of Not Pulling Off Heads”. A rope is strung across the harbor, from which a greased goose is hung by its feet. Boats pass underneath with revelers frantically trying to yank off the struggling bird’s head. Public outrage over the event now stipulates the bird must be killed before strung up for the fun.

10. Toro Jubilo Festival in Medinaceli

“The antiquity of an abuse is not justification for its continuance.” Dr. Samuel Johnson

Every November in the sleepy medieval town of Medinaceli, the 804 residents throw an unusual party. “Toro de Fuego” is quite literally the “bull on fire”. While the bull is tied to a post, unable to move, large balls of tar and pitch are stuck to his horns and set aflame. Then they release him into the streets to run amok in terror while taunted by drunk Spaniards and sadistic tourists. The bull often runs straight into walls to put out the fire while suffering burns to his horns, face and eyes. The tradition is considered pre-Celtic, from the Bronze Age no less. All the more reason to end it permanently.

Basta. No Mas.

About The Author


Brad Anthony is a Canadian ecologist and author who left his life behind to travel the world helping animals. He lives a simple, eco-savvy, mobile lifestyle, commonly found in a small village in Bali with a few of his closest monkey friends. Brad is the Founder of the Global Animal Welfare Development Society.

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