If He Attends the Running of the Bulls, It’s a Giant ‘Muleta’ (Red Flag)

Posted on by PETA Australia

By Stefania Ferrario 

Women are often asked what we see as “red flags” when it comes to men. Top of my list is “does he desire to attend the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain?” If yes, I’m swiping left with the fury of a thousand suns. 

Viewed, for some baffling reason, as some kind of “rite of passage” for Aussie men – who make up a disproportionately large percentage of spectators at the event – the Running of the Bulls is a violent bloodbath that takes place every July during the San Fermín festival. During the weeklong event, rockets are launched to startle groups of bulls, causing them to run through the narrow city streets, slipping and sliding as they’re mercilessly hit with sticks.

A photo of the Running of the Bulls.

Along the way, humans are gored, trampled, and sometimes killed, while frightened bulls fall or run into walls, breaking bones and sometimes dying. At the end of each run, the six bulls – if they have survived – are forced into a ring, where they endure prolonged, agonising deaths at the hands of bullfighters. Last year, at least 42 bulls were barbarically stabbed to death in front of screaming, jeering crowds.  

The “fight” part of “bullfight” makes the whole thing sound much fairer than it is – in reality, bulls are woefully disadvantaged. On top of being exhausted from the run, it’s not uncommon for matadors to drug bulls, shave their horns to throw off their balance, and even rub petroleum jelly into their eyes. Sometimes, the animal’s ears and tail are cut off while the bull is fully conscious and presented to the matador as “trophies”. I don’t know about you, but taking glee in the degradation and vicious murder of another individual isn’t what I look for in a partner, and bullying absolutely does not equal manliness.

This horror can’t be explained away as “culture”, either. More than 100 Spanish towns and cities have banned bullfighting, one poll revealed that 81% of Spaniards aged 16 to 65 oppose bullfights, and a Spanish government report found that only 8% of the population attended a bull-related event in 2018. Last year, Spain’s largest newspaper, El País, announced its decision to remove its bullfighting section, with the publication’s lead bullfight correspondent calling the activity “not politically correct and not progressive”. This year, Spain’s biggest television channel dedicated to showing bullfights also announced its closure.

Of course, social justice issues being intersectional, cruelty to animals isn’t the only problem with Pamplona. Protesting the event alongside animal activists are an increasing number of women’s rights advocates, mobilised after a teenager was gang-raped in 2016 by a group calling itself “The Wolf Pack”. The men, fuelled by alcohol and their violent participation in the bull-killing festival, filmed the rape and shared it – all the while laughing – in a WhatsApp group

This was a landmark case, partly for the puny sentence the assaulters received, but also because it shone much-needed light on the post-event aggression sparked by spectacles involving violence and exploitation. (Victoria Police report a more than 20% increase in domestic violence offences after The Melbourne Cup, too.) Last year, Spain’s Feminist Movement reported nine known sexual assaults, including one on a woman who was attacked in a festival neighbourhood but regained consciousness several kilometres away. Experts say sexual violence is common during the bullfighting festival, but victims are reluctant to speak out.

Of course, I’m not accusing Aussie men of frequenting the Running of the Bulls with a view to commit rape. But enthusiastically supporting such a violent and exploitative event founded on animal abuse, served with a significant side order of sexual aggression, is a major red flag. Spain is rich in cultural events that locals are actually proud of, so spare the bulls and head to La Tomatina, the food-fight festival, instead. Maybe then I’ll swipe right, and we can share a sangria.

Stefania Ferrario is a body positive model and vegan animal activist who has posed for PETA. She is also a mental health activist and discerning dater.