Pamplona: I get my kicks from free running, not slaughtering bulls

The annual event isn't an exciting challenge, it's simply a cruel massacre

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I love a challenge. I've climbed the pyramids of Egypt, stood on one hand on the edge of 15-story buildings over Times Square and raced down the side of tower block in London with nothing more than a harness. But one thing that you'll never catch me doing is running with the bulls in Pamplona.

Unlike the bulls goaded down Pamplona's narrow streets by a jeering, drunken mob, I get to choose what challenges I participate in. The media rarely mentions it while covering the Running of the Bulls, but at the end of every day's run, the bulls are led one by one into an arena, where they are stabbed to death in bullfights. Every thrill-seeker and spectator who goes to Pamplona plays a part in this atrocity.

The Running of the Bulls is marketed as a test of nerve and resolve, but there are no guts or glory in trying to stay a few steps ahead of frightened, confused bulls as they try to keep their footing on slippery cobblestone streets on their way to certain death. We have limitless ways to entertain ourselves. Our enjoyment should never cost any other being who breathes, bleeds and feels pain his or her life.

To call bullfighting a fair fight would be a joke if the result weren't so deadly. There is no fight. The bulls don't stand a chance. Already exhausted from the run, the bulls are led into the arena dazed and spent. First, men on horses run them in circles while repeatedly stabbing them with knives called banderillas until the bulls are dizzy and haemorrhaging. When they are near death, the matador comes in and attempts to sever their spinal cord with a dagger. Sometimes even this doesn't put the animals out of their misery and an executioner must be called in to finish them off. If this sort of cruelty were being inflicted on dogs, the perpetrators wouldn't be cheered, they'd be locked up. But what's the difference? Animals value their lives and want to live – including the bulls who are slaughtered in bullfighting rings.


I take heart in the fact that these cruel spectacles are on their way out. Earlier this year, India's Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment preventing the use of bulls in races, bullfights or any other performances, citing the fact that such events cause “unnecessary pain and suffering”. Just this month, Mexico City banned bullfighting, and the tide is also turning in Colombia, where the capital city of Bogotá banned bullfights and transformed its city bullring from a showcase for torturing and killing animals into a centre for Colombian culture that can be enjoyed by everyone.

I truly believe that all beings who enter this world have their own purpose and value. Animals do not belong to us. They are fellow residents of this planet. They are our cousins. The most important thing that we can do with the time that we're given is to embrace life and live each day to the fullest. There's no beauty, no thrill, no inspiration and no pride in hurting animals.

To anyone who is considering taking a run with the bulls in Pamplona, remember: the bulls are running to their deaths. So run by all means – run through fields, run up hills, run through the city until your legs can't take it, but please, please, don't run with the bulls.

Tim Shieff is a professional English Freerunner