Virus threatens bullfighting season in Spain

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The Independent Online

A rare cattle disease threatens Spain's popular bullfighting festivals, including bull running in Pamplona, in what breeders claim is their worst crisis for 100 years.

A rare cattle disease threatens Spain's popular bullfighting festivals, including bull running in Pamplona, in what breeders claim is their worst crisis for 100 years.

Some 65 per cent of Spain's bull-breeding farms are affected by the "blue tongue" virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos.

Measures to combat the spread of the disease include restricting movements of bulls from affected areas in Andalucia, Extremadura and Castilla-La Mancha, where most fighting bulls come from. Animals may be transported outside those areas only for slaughter.

"The government is behaving shamefully, and sending our national fiesta into free fall," said Eduardo Miura, president of Spain's Union of Breeders of Fighting Bulls, which met in session last week. "There's no co-ordination by the authorities, and the bull-breeders suffer most." The Agriculture Ministry insists that it must protect the health of livestock.

Last November's big cattle fair at Jerez was cancelled because of the disease, and next week's "Fallas" fiesta is likely to run short of bulls.

The Pamplona bull run in July, when thousands of enthusiasts run with bulls through the streets, may be in danger. Pamplona is miles from the restricted zones, but bulls for this year's fiesta have all been contracted from farms affected by the blue tongue virus.

"Current restrictions mean we cannot allow bulls to run through the streets," warned Julio Fernandez, veterinary adviser to the breeders' union.

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