A Load of Bull

This trip through to Spain in August was inspired by several things. In no particular order, they were:

  1. to experience some proper Spanish summer temperatures;
  2. to see something of the Jalon fiesta (it’s a week long);
  3. to help our host Chris celebrate his birthday.

We’ve been doing #1 since we arrived – the skies have been blue and the daytime temperatures have been consistently hitting >30°C/86°F. When we arrived, even Chris’s swimming pool temperature was up at 34°C/94°F.

Today we took care of both #2 and #3 in one visit to a downtown Jalon restaurant in the company of ~14 other revellers, to sit in the street and destroy a selection of Spanish tapas. Being a celebration, we also destroyed several beers, several bottles of vino and a bottle or so of Soberano [Spanish brandy].

Having visited several times, we are familiar with the look of the Jalon town square over which our chosen restaurant looks. Today, though, the town square looked very different. The central fountain structure was covered in wood/metalwork. The square itself was covered with a layer of sand and all the businesses surrounding the square, including the bank, farmacía [chemist/drugstore] and restaurants/bars were shielded by large iron bars enclosing a walkway with seating areas above. The reason for these fortifications? The Spanish obsession with bulls.

A large part of the week-long fiesta is daily sessions of so-called bull running. Since we are not talking about an actual bull fight finishing in blood and gore, I was keen, though a little apprehensive, to witness it. After some food – fear not, our table was in the street at the back side of the restaurant rather in the path of the bulls – a firework was let off signalling the approach of the bull. Francine and I wandered through the restaurant to the front, safely behind the ironwork, for our first taste of a Spanish fiesta.

IMG_1338The bull was let into the ring. It was a truly magnificent looking creature, shining a glorious black. We were later told that they were oiled to improve their appearance. The bulls are bread for fiestas such as this and, of course, for the more blood-thirsty bull fights, and are quite unlike any bulls I’ve ever seen anywhere else. This fabulous creature deserved respect. Naturally, where the Spanish are concerned, respect is precisely what it didn’t get.

The bull was not the only creature in the ring, though it may well have been the most intelligent creature in the ring. Along with the bull, and competing with it vis-a-vis levels of testosterone, were half a dozen young studs. Their job was to taunt the bull unmercifully to enrage it and make it charge, whereupon they would show it a clean pair of heels and flee to safety of several wooden frameworks, either behind or atop them. From their king of the castle positions, they would continue taunting the hapless bull. This all seemed to delight the crowd above and behind the safe ironwork.

IMG_1342 IMG_1347 IMG_1355 IMG_1358

When I say “safe”, all things are relative. One spectator was leaning through the ironwork taking pictures. One problem with staring through the viewfinder of a camera is that one’s attention is focussed and one tends not to see surrounding action ones direct field of view. Such was the case with our snapping spectator. Big though they are, these beautiful bulls are lightening fast. Quite suddenly, the bull snapped its head around and attempted to gore the photographer. The photographer leapt back through the bars, rapidly followed by one of the gleaming bull’s horns. The bull tossed its head. Its horn, doing a quick upper cut, didn’t quite contact the guy’s thigh but it did rip his shorts. I’m ashamed to say I found myself baying for blood – human blood. I’m always on the side of the critters.

I’d had enough and retreated to the safety of our table; a bit like burying my head in the sand, I suppose, pretending the action in the next street wasn’t happening. What began as a vaguely intriguing spectacle descended swiftly into something I regarded as abhorrent.

I really don’t understand how people can treat animals in such a demeaning manner and derive pleasure from it.

Posted in 2013 France and Spain

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