Filled with tradition, Spain is the place for festivals. But when festivals consist of cruelty, when is it time to move on?
Animal Culture is on vacation in Madrid, Spain for the next three weeks. Kalie Lyn, Animal Culture‘s author, is visiting her Spanish husband’s family, and the place she called home from 2008 to 2013.
Warm, beautiful, friendly, and a side of paella, Spain is a country with lots of heritage and tradition. From Flamenco to fútobol, Spain lives and breathes culture. However, in the name of tradition, the rights and welfare of animals are often overlooked.
Bullfighting, a blood-shed sport dating back to the 18th century in Spain, is a popular attraction for both Spaniards and tourists. Bullfighters, called Matadores de Toros, fight the bulls, piercing them with swords. The fight ends when the bull dies.
Every January, in Manganeses de la Polvorosa (a village in the north of Spain), a festival is held in honor of St. Vincent, the town’s saint. Legend has it that a goat, owned by a priest in the village, climbed to the belfry of the church, and when the Sunday mass bell rang, the frightened goat lept from the top of the church. Fortunately, the goat was saved when he was caught with a blanket by people from below. Because of this legend, every year in January, until 2000, during the festival of St. Vincent, a goat was thrown from the roof of a church. The goal was to catch the goat with a blanket.
Probably the most cruel tradition of all is called the Rapa das Bestas. Beginning the first Saturday of July, and ending after three days, this festival in Galicia consists of rounding up wild horses. Corralled into a brick-walled circle, spectators tackle the horses, cutting off their manes and tails and branding them.
Tradition is important for any country and its citizens, but where does tradition cross the line of cruelty? While these festivals happen, the majority of Spaniards are against them and their practices. Most times, these festivals are isolated in smaller towns and villages where animal rights are non-existent, and animals are viewed as sources of food, work, and entertainment. However, even in large cities, such as Madrid, practices involving animals exist, such as bullfighting (side note: Bullfighting was banned in Barcelona and surrounding communities of Catalonia in 2012; hopefully Madrid is soon to follow).
Traveling to Spain and other countries that have these type of spectaculars does not mean tourists need to view them in order to absorb the country’s culture. One way to end these festival acts is to not attend them, both as a tourist and a local. These festivals are often protested by PETA and other animal rights groups, so joining the protest can also possibly help end them. Besides, Spain is rich with festivals and there are many others, which don’t feature animals, that capture the fun and culture that is Spain (view the Top Ten Festivals in Spain).
Spain is a wonderful country but just like with many places, animals are often considered second-class (sometimes not even that) citizens. Tradition is important, but animals and humans alike do not need to get hurt in the process. It is mandatory though to bring awareness to these issues, and to help stop the often cruel and inhumane practices that go along with tradition.