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The running of the bulls seems like fun, except for the part where the bulls are killed inhumanely.

Spain's running of the bulls draws visitors from around the globe, but at what cost?

Trigger Warning: This article contains images of animal injuries/cruelty.

It's Spain's biggest party, but for the stars of the show, it's incredibly brutal.

The running of the bulls is part of the annual fiesta of San Fermín.

The festival dates back to the 12th century and honors Saint Fermín, the first bishop of Pamplona. In the early days, music, dance, acrobats, and bull runs were common forms of entertainment.


That tradition lives on in the modern era. Each morning of the week-long festival thousands of thrill-seeking men and women run a frenzied 850-meter course down the streets of Pamplona, chased by six large bulls.

The crowded streets of Pamplona during the running of the bulls. Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images.

The run is always risky and a few people are hurt every year.

Three people were gored in the first run of the 2015 festival. None of them were seriously injured, and one of the men, an American from Florida, is still deciding whether he'll run the event for the 39th time.

As far as fatal injuries, 15 people have died in the event since the city began keeping records.

But a majority of the suffering belongs to the bulls, who are killed at the end of the run.

The daily dash runs directly into a bullfighting ring, where the animals meet their fate at the hands of a professional matador.


A bull waits for death at the end of a gruesome bout. Photo by George M. Groutas/Flickr.

This is not a quick and painless death.

Each bull experiences multiple small stab wounds to the neck and shoulders to weaken it before the matador delivers the final blow. It's a lengthy, elaborate choreography conducted for spectacle and sport.

Unsurprisingly, the running of the bulls is met with frequent protests.


Historically, the voices of a few dozen protesters were drowned out by tourism dollars.

The fiesta of San Fermín is a huge party, attracting travelers and thrill-seekers from around the globe. About a million people attend, with approximately 20,000 running with the bulls. 56% of the runners are foreigners, many hailing from North America.

However, more and more Spaniards are joining #TeamBull.

In a 2013 poll, only 13% of Spaniards strongly supported bullfighting, and 75% of respondents said they hadn't attended a bullfight in the past five years.

There's hope for the animals in the form of legislation.

Bulls caught a break in 2011, when lawmakers in Spain's Catalonia region (home to Barcelona) voted to ban bullfighting.

It was the first ban of its kind in the country, but probably not the last. We can only hope that Pamplona, where the running of the bulls takes place, considers implementing a similar ban soon too.

A bull mid-bout in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Photo by George M. Groutas/Flickr.

With positive public opinion and interest on a rapid decline, Spanish bullfighting may soon be a thing of the past, which is exactly where it belongs.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
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