Controversial Toro de la Vega bull run goes ahead, but with no violence toward bull

Spain’s notorious bull-spearing fiesta in the town of Tordesillas went ahead today, despite a legal battle in which even the central government had got involved.

The Toro de la Vega bull run, which dates back to the Middle Ages, once involved the hunting of the animal by participants on horseback armed with lances or clubs. But growing animal-rights protests saw opposition to the event grow, and in 2016 the Castilla y León regional government banned the killing of bulls at such fiestas. Bullfights are still allowed.

The Toro de la Vega fiestas have been on hold for the last two years due to the pandemic, but for this edition the local council had set out some novel rules. To comply with the ban on killing the bull, the planned regulations stated that participants would only be allowed to stab the animal with lances tipped with spikes or hooks. 

Participants – limited to 50 – were to try to injure the animal as many as seven times. If they failed to do so in the allotted time, the bull would be declared the winner. 

This plan prompted the Socialist-led central government to get involved, calling on the public prosecutor to intervene on the basis that the bull run would constitute an animal-cruelty offence. 

The new rules were suspended ahead of today’s event by the Castilla y León regional court, until it could reach a ruling on the case. As a result, a regular bull run went ahead “without incident”, according to local authorities. Announcements were made via megaphone to remind people they could not attack the bull. 

The bull, named ‘Manjar’, travelled quickly through the city’s streets before reaching the fields along the route. Participants of the run on horseback then worked to direct the animal to the stockyards. After several hours of trying, the 560-kilo animal had to be anaesthetised in order to get him into the stockyards.

No one was injured during the run, apart from a woman who fell from a fence.

As is tradition at bull runs such as this one or the world-famous Sanfermines, the animal was due to be fought and killed in the ring later in the day. 

While locals and visitors alike came to see the bull run today, some complained that the event “had lost its essence” since the rule changes.  Others carried signs with slogans calling for a return to the past practices. 

Animal-rights party Pacma reported via its Twitter account that it had managed to infiltrate the bull run, and posted video of the exhausted animal surrounded by men on horseback. The group also claimed to have seen sharp objects such as spears and swords despite the new regulations.

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