The Spanish town of Medinaceli set light to a live bull this weekend and then goaded it before it was slaughtered. This they call tradition, or the annual Toro de Jubilo celebration, where they create a “bull of fire.” For this event they now also want UNESCO protection.
Reports say nearly 1,500 people, double the population of the small town which lies in the province of Soria, north east of Madrid, gathered on Saturday for the event that transformed the town’s square into a hellish bull-fighting ring.
In preparation for the event, the three-year old bull had been transported to the town only a few hours earlier. Once it had arrived, it was pulled to the ground so that some 30 men could strap a wood and steel frame to its horns.
Attached to this grotesque headdress were torches soaked in pitch – a mixture of turpentine and sulphur. The men then smothered the bull’s face and neck in mud to stop its fur catching fire before igniting the torches.
When they were aflame the bull was cut free from the post and began to run around the ring, furiously shaking its head as redhot droplets fell from the torches on to its face.
This “event” continues until the fire extinguishes itself. There are reports that in past years, spectators would even try throwing firecrackers at the bull’s head in order to relight the fire and make the festival last longer. In addition, fireworks around the area are often released, causing the bull further distress. After this, the bull is led away and slaughtered.
Below is a video of the 2009 event. One can clearly see the bull being goaded, motes of fire dropping from the metal frame onto its feet, and the bull’s hide steaming and at one point being licked by a trail of fire. The distress the bull feels is palatable as it dashes its head against the ground and attempts to throw off the fire. Viewer discretion is advised:
Pictures of the 2010 event can also be seen here.
This barbaric ritual is justified by the Spanish town as being a matter of “tradition.” They claim it is their cultural heritage. They also say that, despite apparent evidence to the contrary, the bull does not suffer at all.
The festival is thought to date back some 400 years. It was banned in 1962, but that ban was lifted in 1977 and since then the festival has been given special cultural status by authorities in Castile and Leon, while Medinaceli itself is attempting to secure for the festival an Intangible Cultural Heritage status from UNESCO.
Campaigners scored a major victory in 2010 when politicians moved to ban bullfighting in the northeatern Catalonia region.
However, festivals like Toro de Jubilo held in smaller provinces are not covered under this rule change and, as such, the “fire bull season” continues.
Join Care2 in calling for an end to this and other barbaric fire bull events; sign the petition!
Image credit: Thinkstock.