Lisa Tilley finds out the prologue to the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona is a torture-free spectacle with more boobs and bums than bovines
FEET pound the cobbled streets, throwing dust into the long light of the early Pamplona morning and the crowds are steadily gathering in anticipation of today’s run. The air is tense; a dark head dips to the ground with nostrils flared and sharp horns pointing at the horizon.
But the San Fermines have altered a little since author Ernest Hemingway watched bulls run the half a mile into the gaping ellipse of the bullring to meet their slow torturous end. The runners on this particular day are less bovine and more babe-like – and their horns are made of plastic.
What’s more, they have exposed their credentials to the frescito of the Pamplona morning and are set to run – naked or virtually naked – the same course that over the following nine days, will be the last journey of so many bulls during the town’s San Fermin fiesta.
The Running of the Nudes is the brainchild of animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which now sees over 1,500 “hotties” (as one overzealous spectator describes them) run through the infamous streets in protest against the gruesome treatment of bulls in Spain.
People started running naked through the streets of Pamplona in 2002, and the bare-faced runners are now made up of 30 different nationalities, who turn out to protest against the bull-runs of Pamplona and bull fighting in general.
It is, claim the organisers, a “fabulously cheeky way to draw attention to a serious issue.” And the atmosphere is buoyant: “Torture is neither art nor culture,” shout the bashless boycotters, while carrying placards saying “Ponte en la piel del toro!” (put yourself in the bull’s skin!)
Bullfighting may be defended as a fundamentally Spanish art-form but it is largely subsidised by foreign tourists. In fact, a few months ago a Gallop survey found 72 per cent of Spaniards have no interest in bullfights.
For Nick Plant, a nude runner from Dorchester, it is the dim-witted tourists who need a wake-up call. He wanted to take part to “heighten awareness for tourists who only see the cruelty and suffering bulls face during a bullfight while watching one – after already having paid for their ticket.
“Even if they walk out, as many do, their money has been spent and the damage done. Instead, they should strip off and party with the Running of the Nudes in a peaceful, sexy, and animal-friendly alternative.”
According to PETA, 40,000 bulls are killed each year in Spain’s bullrings, while 200 horses also die when caught up in the gruesome struggle.
However, attitudes in Spain are beginning to change. Perhaps because of the Catalan region’s proximity to northern Europe, this has been the first part of Spain to move towards banning the blood sport.
The council of Barcelona declared the city an anti-bullfighting zone in 2004, and 38 other Catalan municipalities have followed suit. Thanks to events such as The Running of the Nudes, says PETA, the bullfight is slowly being confined to the history books where it belongs. For all those involved it is a case of “out with the old and in with the nudes!”