Thousands of thrill-seeking tourists have descended on the Spanish city of Pamplona this week, for the return of the iconic Running of the Bulls festival. As the traditional chupinazo firework was ignited, officially launching the 2022 edition of the San Fermín bull-run, hordes of revellers erupted in cheer. The launch marked the festival’s first appearance in over two years.
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While the weather wasn’t exactly forgiving, it mattered little to event-goers. Thousands of bull runners crammed into Pamplona’s tiny town square, neatly dressed in the traditional white trousers and shirt get-up, complete with red sash and neckerchief. As the clock neared midday, event organisers lit the firework for the first time in 24 months and the iconic cultural phenomenon shifted quickly into gear.
Day one of the San Fermín bull-run festival kicked off with a series of encierros, which saw adventure junkies attempt to outrun six charging bulls as they make their way through the winding, cobblestone streets en route to the city’s bullring. Onlookers gathered on their balconies to watch the chaos unfold and it wasn’t long before they too were part of the action. Once the bull runs drew to a close, the streets flood edwith people, eager to drink, eat and dance.
The latest running of the bulls marks a welcomed return for the Spanish cultural experience, which until it was suspended due to the pandemic, had run unimpeded since the country’s Civil War in the 1930s.
While the return of the Running of the Bulls festival was welcomed by the city’s tourism operators and hospitality merchants, not everyone was thrilled to see the event back in action. According to the Associated Press, many were quick to point out that eight people were gored during the last festival in 2019, with 16 deaths accounted for since 1910. Additionally, animal rights protesters have called on city officials to put an end to the festival, claiming that “Bullfighting is Prehistoric”.
“The Running of the Bulls is part of a barbaric bloodbath that takes place every summer during the Festival of San Fermín,” animal rights group PETA wrote in a blog post regarding the event. “This year, 42 terrified young bulls will be chased through the streets by a mob of people to the bullring. Many of the tourists who take part in the festival don’t realise that the same bulls will later be stabbed to death in the bullring.”
As explained by the organisation, the bulls used in the runs are ushered into the city’s bullring, where they are then killed by professional matadors in daily showings. The spectacle has drawn major objections from several groups across the globe, however, the Spanish government has declined to outlaw the practice. Under the Spanish Constitution, bullfights are protected as part of the country’s cultural heritage.