Miguel Ángel Rolland, in his new documentary, Santa Fiesta, documents the 16,000 religious festivals across Spain that he says involve animal torture and butchery.
Every year about 60,000 animals are killed during local "religious" festivals, often held in honour of a local saint or the Virgin Mary.
The most well known is the running of the bulls during the fiesta of San Fermín in Pamplona.Six fighting bulls and six oxen are driven through the narrow streets to the bullring, where the bulls are killed in bullfights.
The torture documented in Rolland’s film include pulling the head off a goose and throwing a live turkey from a church tower, but the most abused animal by far is the bull. He calculates that during the 1,868 festivals involving bulls last year, more than 11,000 were tortured and killed. Aside from bullfighting, there are village festivals such as the toro enmaromado (roped bull) in Benavente, Zamora, central Spain. Here, a bull has a rope tied to its horns while dozens of men chase and drag it to the abattoir. It has been declared an “event of regional tourist interest” by the regional government of Castile and León.Many other such fiestas enjoy legal protection.
In Dénia, Alicante, bulls are chased off a pier and then dragged out of the sea, and according to Rolland they often drown. In Villalpando, Zamora, a bull is pursued by cars. In Ohanes, Almería, the animal is tied up and forced to bow down eight times before the statue of a saint.
Most of these festivals are held in Andalusia and Castile and León, but there is no region in Spain where they don’t exist.
Some of the festivals are now illegal.but they still go on. In 2002 the Andalusian government banned the fiesta in Cazalilla, in which a live turkey is thrown from the church tower. But the practice continues and each year the villagers pay the €2,000 (£1,450) fine. “If they tried to stop the turkey throwing, people would riot,” says Juan Balbín Garrido, the mayor.
Rolland reflects: “In Spain about 200 animals are killed every day for entertainment. That’s eight terrible deaths every hour.”
Our conclusion is that Spain is no place for tourists with a conscience, yet the Spanish economy counts very much on tourism for revenue. We are therefore asking you to pledge to boycott the country until it brings these atrocities to an end. Change usually takes place when money becomes the relevant issue.