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© 2019 by Anna Rothärmel

 

traditions

blessing or curse?

Traditions are something so valuable. No matter if they are religious, only within your family and friends or completely weird to other people. Just think of Christmas. There are numerous traditions we stick to every year and if we decide to do without them for a change, everything is odd. Something is missing. Traditions remind us of good times and good feelings. Just imagine we did not have them!

Traditions go way back which is a good thing. In most cases, because sometimes traditions are only an excuse to continue with something, we are actually to smart for nowadays–especially when it is connected to cruelty towards other human beings or animals. For months I have been planning on having a closer look at the latter. Just think of bullfighting: it is appalling, the bulls are mistreated par excellence yet still, it is going on. Because it is a tradition. But what is the tradition exactly? It is just called like that and then some people think it is fine to keep it alive otherwise it would die. But what lies beneath that? What is the reason? How did this tradition evolve?

When looking up "tradition" and "animal cruelty" I saw horrific pictures that I will never forget, and sadly lovely Spain is a frontrunner when it comes to animal mistreating traditions. Let's have a look at four of them, shall we? Why four, you ask? I don't know, people would always say "Top 3" or "Top 5" - why not "Top 4" for a change?

Bullfighting - corrida de toros

What happens?

On the one side stands the matador. He has had training for his whole life and if he is able to kill a lot of bulls, he will become famous. Many matadors have been famous in Spanish history and made a lot of money. On the other side stands the bull. He did not really get trained, but he is made. On bull ranches (ganaderías) that only have the purpose of breeding bulls for the arena and the runs, they are tested at a young age and only if they are strong and wild enought, they stay. Otherwise they go directly to the slaughterhouse. After two to three years, the remaining bulls are evaluated again and if they are fit for breeding, they stay. Otherwise guess what: slaughterhouse it is. Funny... how the matador on the one side becomes a star and how the bull, who has been mistreated all his life, dies, no one will remember it.

It is a big spectacle such a bullfight. 

Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Toro Jubilo

How did it all start?

What does the future look like?

Galgos

What happens?

Galgos... for many not the ideal type of dog when they are looking for one. It either needs to be small and cute or big and fluffy. Galgos are thin, greyhounds with short hair. However, they are extremely kind, intelligent, sensitive and not only great with other dogs, but also with people. It does not take them long to get accustomed to a new home, new owners, new children. They are the perfect family dog. However, in Spain they are still used as hunting or race dogs, because true... they can be really fast. And since their eyes are at the side of their narrow head, they have a pretty big angle, great for hunting. One might think that a dog that is used for hunting or races are invaluable for their owners. The galgos' fate looks different: they often live together on a very small space, only get enough to drink and eat so that they survive and if they are used for races, they are "trained", e. g. by putting meds into their bodies to push them or by being chained at the back of the car. If they are too slow? Too bad, that means its death. As soon as hunting season is over on 1 February, the official Galgo Day, many get disposed of. Only the strong ones are kept. And yes, disposed of is the perfect choice of words. If they are lucky, they are brought to a shelter. Most of them, however, are burnt alive, chained to a tree where they either suffocate or starve or they are brought to a slaughterhouse. More than 50.000 dogs are killed in such a way every year.

How did it all start?

The tradition that galgos are used for hunting purposes goes back to the 6 century bc and the Celts. As early as then people knew that they are amazing hunters. But that's about it. Apart from the fact that it has been done for a long time, I could not find any other reason, no deeper reason. Well, there is one more: money. Who would have thought? For many hunting or races are a source of income and this they don't want to give it up. Oh, and not to forget the fun and the excitement. Yeah, definitely worth killing innocent dogs for it. There we have it again, the arrogance of humans. 

What does the future look like?

Galgos and by the way also their fellow hunting and racing dogs greyhounds and pondencos, are not seen as living beings, but as objects. There are countless animal protection groups and animal shelters who do their bit to change the situation. However, without politics nothing will change. The political party PACMA is committed to stop any kind of animal-mistreating traditions and have brought forward several suggestions of changing the law. However, they are not represented in the government and without the support from other political parties, not much will happen. So in short, three things must happen: First, a state law on animal protection must be approved. Second, the criminal code must be changed so that animal abusers are punished more severely and third, complaints of murder and mistreat must actually be prosecuted; most of them are just not followed up. Why? Becuse it is a tradition. Do you see the vicious circle here? Well, I can already tell you what my future will look like: at some point I am getting one of these galgos. Getting it out of that hell!

el PeroPalo

What happens?

It is carnival time in Villanueva in the Extremadura and from carnival Sunday til Shrove Tuesday the whole city goes crazy. People dance in the streets, there is music, drums and it all ends with the Peropalo being tried for treason and burnt to death. No, the Peropalo is not an animal, but a figure made of straw representing a rapist. So far so good, I am a carnival girl and loved all the drinking, dancing, doing stupid things stuff. But in the middle of these festivities is a donkey. A donkey.. why? Well, no one really knows. And it has been the same donkey for 30 years: Bernabe. Altough a donkey has apparently never died during these festivities, it causes it a lot of stress. Drunk people all around, people riding on him, firearms being fired, him being pushed and kicked. And what for? There is simply no reason.

How did it all start?

Nobody knows when it really started, there is no recorded time. But somehow this is all connected with agrarian fertility rites celebrated during winter in most of the pre-roman Europe. So it goes back quite some time. When the donkey came into play, however, no one really knows. Only one thing is clear: Bernabe has been doing this for 30 years, so it all started at a time when people were actually already smart enough to understand that donkeys are senstive animals that cannot deal with stress like that. Actually, no animal deserves that. Just imagine someone did that to you. Almost like in Game of Thrones... Shame, Shame, Shame!!

What does the future look like?

Bernabe was checked after the last Peropalo and El Refugio del Burrito has scientific proof that he suffered from stress. This was brought forward to policitians of Extremedura, but still nothing has happened so far. Just like with all th other traditions including animal cruelty - as long as the law is not changed and events like this being protected under the safety net of "tradition", nothing will ever change. Apparently, in 2019 Bernabe looked thinner than ever before, his hoofs were in poor condition and the parade lasted longer than usual. This must stop. And it is a shame that not even scientific proof will stop this.

rapa das bestas

What happens?

It means "The Capture of the Beasts" and for a change we do actually have a tradition behind all of this apart from the fact that it has been done for a long a time. For almost 2,000 years wild horses have been brought into different villages across Galicia to get sheered, their tails and mane, and marked and this tradition goes back to the Celts. Today, 600-700 horses are brought to the village that live free in the mountains, however, do belong to the parish or to private owners. After all of this is done, the mares and foals are released again, some studs are being sold for slaughtering. People might not have known back in the days, but now we are smarter. One might think. Many foals and mares don't find each other anymore after all of this is over. By sheering the tale the horses cannot protect themselves from insects anymore. Since the horses are crammed into a small space, the curros, it is extremely high stress for them. It goes without saying that the horses are not hold gently to do them no harm. No no no... they are punched down, the men and boys fight with them, hurt them. And what for? Just because it is again a very important tradition that must be kept alive and a reason to celebrate, because it has turned into folk festival. You know, the sheering I don't get, because there is absolutely no reason why you would do that. But the marking I get. However, why making such a harming deal out of it? Why not doing this in a gentle way that does not harm any animal and separate foal from mare? We humans are supposed to be smart! Look what we have accomplished from the times of the Celts til today and still... traditions are clinged onto, for no reason whatsoever.

How did it all start?

What does the future look like?

This horse wrestling needs to end. However, apart from private groups trying to stop it by collectiong signatures and with petitions, nothing has happened.