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Opinion: why bullfights should stay cancelled after Covid-19

The annual ‘Running of the Bulls’ festival in Pamplona normally starts on 7 July but in 2020 it was suspended due to Coronavirus. The president of the Navarra regional government, María Chivite, has also announced that it will not be possible to hold the event in July 2021.

In April 2020, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organisation sent a letter to the Mayor of Pamplona, Enrique Maya Miranda, offering the city €250,000 if it agreed to permanently end the bull-running and subsequent bullfights. Here is an opinion piece by Elisa Allen, director of PETA UK (first published 24 April).

Opinion: why bullfights should stay cancelled after Covid-19 

Amid the storm clouds of the Coronavirus pandemic, there’s at least one silver lining: we may emerge from this crisis knowing that a more compassionate world is possible. Many cruel industries have been shut down, at least for the time being. Life has gone on without them, and countless animals are enjoying a respite from human tyranny for the first time in their lives.

In Spain, hundreds of bullfighting events – including Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls – have been shut down because of the pandemic, preventing hundreds of bulls from being stabbed to death. Over 80% of Spanish people oppose cruel bullfights and bull runs, so why bring them back once the lockdown is lifted? Haven’t we all seen enough suffering and death? Intentionally causing more, is – and always has been – inexcusable.

PETA activists holding ‘Stop the Bloody Bullfights’ banners in Pamplona in 2018. (

If ever there were a ‘non-essential’ activity, it’s bullfighting. In fact, not only is the spectacle needless, it’s also barbaric and cowardly. From the moment the bull enters the ring from the dark alleyway into the blinding light, he doesn’t stand a chance. It’s not a fair fight.

ALSO READ: Activists stage ‘crime scene’ ahead of Pamplona’s running of the bulls

This archaic pastime is so violent that it bears describing: in a typical bullfight, men on horses run the bull in circles while repeatedly stabbing him in the neck and back with lances until he is drenched in his own blood. In spite of the notoriety that some matadors achieve, they come in only for the final blow, when the exhausted and weakened bull is already on the verge of death.

An image from the ‘Running of the Bulls’ in Pamplona in 2018. (AFP / Ander Gillenea)

Bullfighting promotes and fosters an atmosphere of aggression that extends well beyond the violence towards animals: the large number of incidents of sexual assault, rape, and other forms of violence against women reported during events such as the Running of the Bulls has prompted protests from women’s rights groups.

With bullrings closed during the pandemic, bullfighters are demanding financial support from the government to keep the industry afloat. Let’s hope they don’t get it, because there are countless better ways to use taxpayer money than to prop up a dying industry that tortures and kills animals – especially during an economic crisis. The government should focus on funding hospitals, schools, and other public services, which need all the help they can get.

While we’re all looking forward to the end of the pandemic, it would be a shame if we resumed cruel and unethical practices once it’s behind us. When the lockdown is over, the government must put an end to needless violence by banning bullfighting and promoting, instead, Spain’s many compassionate cultural traditions.

ALSO READ: Animal rights NGO starts petition against possible state aid for cancelled bullfights

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