A spectacle based on the mistreatment of an animal until its death, as was seen at the Toro de la Vega fiestas in Tordesillas (Valladolid) on Tuesday, cannot be considered a cultural act, nor a tradition that should be maintained. Not in the 21st century. Watching as an animal is chased by dozens of horse riders armed with spears, who surround and lance it until it falls down dead, is as savage as other former “traditions” in Spain that have, fortunately, fallen by the wayside – from dogfights to the flinging of goats off bell towers.
However it is looked at, the Tordesillas fiesta turns sadism and cruelty into a way for people to enjoy themselves. Citing the long history of the festivities – which date back to 1534 – to justify their continuation is unacceptable. There are many cruel traditions that were abolished or abandoned due to changing sensitivities – England, for example, had a long history of foxhunting on horseback and using hounds, but it was eventually banned.
A bloodless alternative needs to be found for a fiesta that should have evolved long ago
In spite of what its proponents argue, the Toro de la Vega is not just a local issue. The fiesta transcends those limits, and in doing so transmits a deplorable image of Spain. What happened on Tuesday, which saw insults and physical confrontation between the defenders and the detractors of the event, only makes things worse. In a mature and democratic society, controversial issues are not decided by stone-throwing or slander.
A bloodless alternative needs to be found for a fiesta that should have evolved long ago. Having got to this point, the only reasonable solution is prohibition. Congress has missed a number of opportunities to properly legislate on animal mistreatment, the last of which was just a year ago. While the responsibility for regulation of such events lies with the corresponding region, the existence of a number of fiestas where animals are mistreated – such as the Catalan correbous or cockfighting in the Canary Islands – suggests that political action should be taken to prohibit these expressions of cruelty and sensitize those citizens who still consider they have a right to inflict brutality.