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A Publication of

From The Ark - Number 190 - Spring 2002

The Shame of Spain

In the village of Tordesillas, near Valladolid, preparations and minor celebrations begin on the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, 15th August.  The names are drawn of the bulls to be used during the bull-fighting season, including that of the victim for the notorious ‘Toro de Vega’ (Bull of the Fertile Valley) to be held annually on 11th September.  The one chosen for 2001 was Linosó, a black six-year old bull, weighing 680 kilos and raised on the cattle ranch of the Cardenilla de Cáceres.

In the second week of September the main celebrations of Tordesillas begin in honour to the local area’s patron, Our Lady the Virgin of the Rock.  The main event is on the Tuesday, with the Toro de Vega.  This unique bullfighting ‘spectacle’ has been celebrated for centuries, a descendant of the ancient pagan bullfighting ritual of Spain, the Alanceamiento of the Toro, practised before the introduction of today’s standard bullfights in the 18th century.

In the morning of Tuesday, at about 11 o’clock, the bull is released from a lorry in the town’s centre.  The crowd, armed with lances and daggers, chases the bull through the streets along the traditional route to the town’s bridge.  Once across the bridge, the bull meets its fate. Waiting for him in a designated area of the valley is a further crowd provided with lances. The ‘sport’ is to stab the bull repeatedly until it dies of blood loss and stress - a death which takes usually about 35 minutes to bring about.  Last year Linosó, surrounded by people spearing him on both sides, suffered the torment for more than twenty minutes before finally collapsing in agony and dying.  The bull the year before had a spear driven through its entire body which remained embedded in the animal for 35 minutes as the bloody frenzy continued.

Until recently, the person who had been able to give the fatal lance-thrust, the ‘lanzazo mortal’, had the right to remove the bull’s testicles and to parade them with pride on the end of his lance.  (Some ‘winners’ still do.)  Now the town council grants a gold standard to the winner and honours him with a forged iron lance.  According to local media reports, the 2001 fiesta was praised by organisers as a success.  ‘The competitors decided that they were all victors and that the winner was Tordesillas town.  The general feeling of the participants was that they had enjoyed a clean tournament, the cleanest for many years, and that the fiesta took place with excitement and respect for tradition.’

However, Spain’s National Association for Animal Protection and Welfare (ANBPA) described the fiesta as ‘abhorrent, shameful and a horrendous crime in which a horde armed with spears, whose blades measure 35 centimetres, hound an animal with the sole purpose of spearing it in any part of its body until they kill it ... The local government is justifying a cruelty, thus showing its backward nature and unworthiness to be governing a people who have shown that they are against animals suffering in events involving bulls.’

This is a view that is shared by the majority of Spaniards. An opinion poll showed that 59 per cent view the Toro de Vega as ‘murderous’ while only 13 per cent see it as a tradition worth keeping.

However, to protect their right to continue the Toro de Vega torture, despite the huge campaign from animal welfare organisations world-wide, the town council of Tordesillas applied to the government of Castilla and León to have it declared a ‘traditional spectacle’.  So now it can no longer be subject to prosecution in the courts by animal protection organisations.  International pressure is needed to inform the government that animal abuse cannot and will not be justified in the name of tradition.

Do write to the following to let them know what you, as Catholics, think about this event held in ‘honour’ of Our Lady:

The President of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain

S.E.Antonio M. Card. Rouco Varela, Arzobispo de Madrid, Arzobispado, Bailen 8,E-28071, Madrid

The Secretary of Spanish Bishops’ Conference: S.E. Mgr Juan Asenjo Pelegrina,

Secretario General, Anastro 1, E-28033, Madrid Fax: 00349 13439616


email (state your name, country and email address):

* The President of the Spanish Government :

* Mayoress of Tordesillas :

* President of the Castilla and Leon region :

* Regional Presidency Councillor for Castilla and Leon region :  

 Return to The Ark No. 190

For questions, comments and submissions, please contact:
Deborah Jones at The Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare

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