In village festivals taking place in north-eastern Spain these days, an iron structure containing balls of flammable material is attached to the horns of a bull.
The balls are set alight, and the animal is let loose on the streets, where it dashes about — often to the deafening sound of firecrackers — while local people tease and dodge it. Such spectacles, known as correbous (bull runs), remain popular in some parts of Catalonia, which in July became the first region on the Spanish mainland to ban bullfights — a move that shocked many Spaniards.
The ban, effective from 2012, was a victory for Catalan animal rights campaigners, who are determined to see an end to other bull spectacles, though they are usually not meant to lead to the death of the animal.
“We do not know how long it will take to outlaw the correbous, but we shall continue campaigning against them,” Dora Casado of the tiny Anti-Bullfighting Party (Pacma) told the German Press Agency DPA in a telephone interview. Spectacles featuring bulls — other than actual bullfights — are popular almost all over Spain.
The most famous of them are the Pamplona bull runs, in which men run alongside fighting bulls in a July event drawing up to a million tourists to the northern city.
Similar runs are held in many places.
Other spectacles involve throwing darts at bulls, killing them with lances or chasing them with cars until they die, said Ms. Casado.
“In some places, bulls are given electric shocks, even though that is illegal,” she said. The most popular types of Catalan correbous are the “fire bull” — described above — and the “tied bull”. In the latter, “the bull is pulled through the streets with ropes while people follow it, shouting, pulling its tail, giving it kicks and blows with sticks,” she says.
The bull is not killed in either of the two spectacles, but it is subjected to such stress that some die of heart attacks, according to Ms. Casado.
Those defending the correbous, however, stress the good life of fighting bulls, which are raised on expansive pastures.
“These animals work [only] two days a year” when participating in spectacles, bull breeder Pedro Fumado told the daily La Vanguardia.
“They live ... like kings.” The fire bulls and tied bulls “are not just entertainment, but a feeling that emerges from the blood of our ancestors,” said Miquel Ferre, a representative of associations of bull spectacle fans in the Ebro region of southern Catalonia.
“It is time to show off all our pride in the bulls,” said Manel Ferre, mayor of Amposta, one of the localities where correbous are the most popular.
The municipality of Amposta and local bull associations are spending $115,000 on 42 festive events featuring bulls this summer, La Vanguardia reported.
Animal rights activists “will not defeat us,” said Miquel Ferre, whose companions were collecting signatures and prepared a manifesto in defence of the spectacles. Ms. Casado claimed that few Catalans outside a few localities in the south took an interest in bull spectacles. However, she admitted that correbous were more popular than bullfights, and that it was too early to seek a ban against them in the Catalan Parliament.
The regional Parliament is, however, planning to adopt animal treatment rules that would limit the duration of the spectacles and thus reduce the stress of the bulls.
The fire bull will be limited to 15 minutes and the tied bull to 60 minutes. “That is better than nothing,” said Ms. Casado.