Pamplona bull run death to call for rethink of annual festival

16th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The death of a young man at this year's festival has sparked fresh demands for tougher safety measures and renewed calls from animal rights activists for the tradition to be scrapped.

Pamplona -- Despite having been gored five times by a bull at the Pamplona bull run in northern Spain, Julen Madina sees no reason to put an end to the annual event which led to one death this year.

"The bull run is the motor of the San Fermin festival, its soul, without the bull run the festival would die," the 54-year-old, who has taken part in the eight-day event for nearly four decades, told AFP.

But the death of a young man at this year's festival, which wrapped up Tuesday, has sparked fresh demands for tougher safety measures and renewed calls from animal rights activists for the tradition to be scrapped.

Factory worker Daniel Jimeno Romero died Friday after being gored in the neck and lungs by a bull which became separated from the pack.

Television footage showed the 27-year-old scrambling to get under a wooden fence that was serving as a protective barrier just before the bull gored him with its right horn.

He was the 15th person to die in the annual run since 1911, but the first to be fatally gored since 1995 when a 22-year-old American died.

Another four men were gored during Sunday's bull run when another bull became separated from the pack. Two of the men are in serious condition.

Dozens more, including tourists from Australia, Britain and the United States, suffered broken bones or bruises after falling, getting knocked over or trampled by the bulls during the festival.

During the run, crowds race ahead of a pack of thundering bulls, which can weigh up to 700 kilogrammes (1,500 pounds) along an 825 metre (900 yard) course over cobbled streets to the town bullring where the animals are killed by matadors later in the day.

About 2,000 people, mostly men, take part in the bull runs on weekdays and 3,500 at the weekend.

Daily newspaper El Mundo called for limits on the number of participants in the bull runs and for escape exits to set up for runners who are cornered by stray bulls.

Pamplona's conservative mayor Yolanda Barcina said officials have already taken steps to boost safety at the festival, which has been held since 1911 and was made famous by Ernest Hemingway's novel "The Sun Also Rises".

Police stop people who have had too much to drink -- as well as those in slippers or with cameras to film the event -- from taking part.

"Before Daniel Jimeno was gored, participants of the run had been complaining for years that the run was losing excitement and risk because of all the security measures which the municipality has put in place," she said.

"No matter how many security measures are put in place, bulls are animals and they can cause someone to lose their life," she added.

Others want to see the run banned outright out of concern for the bulls.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international animal rights group, has mounted a campaign to persuade foreigners to boycott the festival, which was expected to bring in more than 70 million euros (100 million dollars) in tourism earnings this year.

"Tormenting and killing animals for entertainment is straight out of the Dark Ages. If Spain wants to declare its place among modern Europe nations, the first thing the country should do is outlaw animal torture," said Poorva Joshipura, PETA’s campaign coordinator in Europe.

"The bulls used for the Running of the Bulls are running because they have been hit with sharp sticks or goaded with electric prods and are terrified. They run, slip and slide on the streets of Pamplona into the bullring," she told AFP.

But the mayor of Pamplona rejected calls to end the run.

"Without a doubt the San Fermin festival would not make sense without the run, it is a part of our festival and our culture," she said.


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