Elegido, the 596-kilo bull at the center of this year’s Toro de la Vega bull hunt in the Valladolid town of Tordesillas, got to live a half-hour longer thanks to the efforts of around 300 protestors who joined together to stop the 45 registered participants from setting out on their expedition.
“We’ve come to prevent a murder!” said Daniel, who had journeyed from Mallorca to try to stop the controversial annual event. Much reviled by animal rights groups for its cruelty, the Toro de la Vega involves hunters on foot and horseback chasing a bull through a pine forest before spearing it to death.
Over 120 civil guard and police officers had to remove the protestors by force, dragging them away by their hands and feet, causing the event to begin 30 minutes late. Elegido (The Chosen One) was nevertheless killed at around 12.30pm by 28-year-old Álvaro Martín, who preferred to ignore accusations of cheating from some of the other hunters.
After exchanging insults for over an hour, animal rights protestors and hunt supporters began throwing stones at each other and threatening to file reports for assault. As Elegido took his final breaths, somebody set fire to a nearby protected area, according to local Mayor José Antonio González of the Socialist Party (PSOE). González said the perpetrator had already been arrested earlier and belonged “to the group of those who came to try to boycott our festivities.”
Before his demise, Elegido managed to inflict four gorings. The injured were taken away by ambulance, one of them in serious condition. “It’s normal. There are gorings every year,” said one local.
The mayor said the number of visitors had been similar to last year's – around 40,000 – though the amount of protestors had increased. He accused them of pouring oil over part of the route taken by the bull, horses and hunters, creating a risk of a “serious accident.” Asked if he would call on the Socialist Party to vote against the Plural Left grouping’s proposal to ban the event, González replied: “I ask it to be a reasonable party and I ask people to respect the freedom of the town.”
Protestors of all ages arrived from all over Spain, including Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Alicante. The majority said they did not belong to any particular association or party. On Saturday, hundreds of animal rights activists had marched in downtown Madrid against the event, which enjoys National Touristic Interest status.
Gerardo Abril, president of the fiesta’s organizing board, said he thinks his town has become the “victim of a lynching” by groups of “fundamentalists.”
But isn’t the Toro de la Vega also a lynching? “No,” said Abril. “It is a ritual for people who love nature and it is forbidden to stab [the bull] with several spears at the same time. We would like [the death] to come with the first stab, but as the bull has very tough skin you have to hit it hard for the spear to penetrate.”
Álvaro Martín, the winner of this year’s event, had to stab Elegido three times before he finally died – a half hour behind schedule.