PP Travel - Pamplona - Bull Fighting
Pamplona Bullfights - Hypocrisy from Two Sides of a Coin
I've always been an animal lover, I've always enjoyed the company of animals and always had animals as part of my family. But I wasn't really one to give a great deal of deep thought to animal treatment on any scale that might've surpassed the scope of my own backyard.
But then I had two daughters ... and they are the two most important people in this world and when they talk, I listen!
I've been attending the Pamplona Fiesta of San Fermin with PP Travel since 1995. That year I also attended a Bullfight to see what all the hype was about. I was disgusted and horrified at what I saw and vowed to never again attend such a spectacle. That humans would have you believe this so called "sport" is in anyway a contest, is something I could just not understand. Bullfighting, I had decided, is nothing but organised public cruelty and I wanted no part of it.
The massive party in the streets of Pamplona during the yearly fiesta however, I saw as a separate entity, and for my mind something that has to be experienced to be believed. Some of the best times and most fun I had ever experienced has been in those cobbled streets of the Pamplona old town. So it was that again, the following year (and now working for PP Travel), I was determined not to miss out on the fun of that fiesta and headed to Pamplona in early July. I stayed away from Bullfights and spoke out against them to anyone who asked me what my stance was in regards to the practice but I continued to party on in Pamplona year after year, again without really giving thought to the bulls each evening of the fiesta. I had made many good Spanish friends by this time - all of a similar mind-set to me which was "out of sight is out of mind".
But age generally always matures a person (as does parenthood) and after 13 visits to Pamplona I finally missed a festival in 2008 as my first child was due to be born. By this time I had already changed somewhat as a person and already evolved a more thoughtful psyche and developed a more ethical persona across the board. I'm not talking about just how I viewed the ethical treatment of animals but also how I looked into their plight in terms of integration into our food chain as well as in other aspects of our daily lives. It was also around this time that the internet exploded and we saw the birth of social media and within years we were all connected and the information superhighway was being fully upgraded the planet over. It was easier to get information, to digest that information and to make informed decisions based on the information you now had, information that you previously never even knew existed.
Am I getting to a point here I can here you asking yourselves ... well let's fast forward to the present ... the year 2020.
I am now one of the joint owners and joint managing partners of PP Travel and we still, to this day, operate tours to The Fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona and I will now tell you why ... but first, let me just say that myself, the owner of PP Travel and our other managing partners are all 100% against Bullfighting. Period.
Between the 7th and the 14th of July some 48 bulls are killed in the Pamplona Bull Ring of an evening. What most people don't know, however, is how they are killed. They are in reality, literally tortured to death - there is no other way to describe it. We abhor this practice and both personally, and as a company, advise all our guests in person about this barbaric practice. We don't take people to see bull fights and we never attend ourselves. For years we've discussed abandoning the fiesta itself but when you look at all the factors, yet another company abandoning touring to the fiesta, would absolutely NOT halt the practice. Those that are in the know actually DO KNOW that if all tourists stopped coming to Pamplona for San Fermin, the fiesta would still go on and in fact, in recent years, the crowds have grown as more and more Spaniards are attending the festivities than ever before. The festival is actually booming - it ain't going away. Many people have absolutely got it wrong in thinking that its international tourists that are fuelling the crowd growth - its actually locals, and locals enjoying the festivities rather than the bull fights as is evidence in the fact that bull fight tickets are easy to come by these days whereas in past years they used to be at a premium. Even the locals are abandoning the bullfights!
Over the past five years on behalf of PP Travel - I have signed dozens of petitions against the treatment of animals (all over the world not just Pamplona), I have passionately spoken about my stance on the issue (it's no longer out of sight out of mind) and I have absolutely talked many people out of ever going to a bull fight, many of which instead, signed petitions with me after being well informed about how these wonderful creatures are treated. PP has made donations to the WWF, the RSPCA, and more as well as to other environmental causes (don't get me started on that - it's all connected) close to our hearts such as the World Food Program.
The biggest change in thinking for me was a year ago bringing my two daughters to Pamplona (aged 7 and 9) and showing them what we do as a company, how we approach animal activism, and advising them on our future ideas on how to spread the word further. Those little people, the only two people in this world from whom I'll accept judgement on my views, were very pleased with what they learnt about PP Travel and about our stance against bull fighting as individual people and as a company.
Sure PP Travel could've simply stopped bringing people to Pamplona - as other companies have done - but I ask you now (and them if any are reading this blog) what else have those companies done since? How, as an ongoing concern, do they educate people on the barbaric practice of bull fighting? Have they spoken out in any other way? Have they signed any petitions? Have they done any activism of any form? Have they made any donations to active causes? What else have they actually done besides halting tours to one particular destination? Is it that they simply stopped coming to Pamplona as they felt it was damaging their brand? We at PP, look at the festival of San Fermin in a different light. This festival WILL continue with or without PP Travel but if PP continue to operate to the festival then we have the absolute best opportunity to put our case to the people, to be able to provide accurate information in regards to the bull fights, to be able to persuade many of them to enjoy the street festival and to have nothing to do with the bulls. In essence we'll educate far more people on the cruelty of bull fights than ever possible than if we just ceased operations to the event.
To be CLEAR - PP Travel hopes to be around to see a TOTAL bull fight ban and we do believe this will be sooner rather than later. Morally, and in all honesty, it simply HAS TO BE SOONER.
Pamplona's Mayor said before the festival in 2019 that he "couldn't imagine" the festival without bulls and that he is open to "phasing them out". We at PP welcome this news, but to take this further we don't think "phasing out" should be the target here - it should be an immediate cessation of any and all bull fighting now and forever!
To all those people out there who sit in their high-castles and judge us at PP Travel from afar, send us abuse, hate mail and even death threats because we do take people to PAMPLONA - we challenge you guys to do more!
I am not a vegan (yet), I am not going to throw out my leather shoes yet or stop drinking milk or eating cheese overnight, I am not going to run out and join PETA and I am certainly not going to abuse people at the end of an email or a telephone call for having different views and ideals as myself. But what I will be doing, and what PP Travel will be doing is aiming to achieve yet more changes in our daily lives - changes for good, changes for animal welfare, and lots of changes in regards to environmental issues. We can all actually do more than we are doing right now to make Earth a better place for everyone.
A friend of mine said to me the other day that they were glad that so many people were taking small steps towards a better future. Obviously I agreed with my friend, as there does seem to be a significant shift in the publics thinking towards ethical and environmental issues (which I see as the two biggest issues and the root of all other issues on this planet). But I'll also let you guys in on what I replied to my friend at the time - "We don't need small steps - What we need is drastic action!" and this is something that applies to banning bullfights and any blood sport involving animals.
On this topic I will leave it up to someone much smarter than I to have the last word.
"As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love." - Pythagoras.
"You've just got to get to Pamps - it's without doubt the most amazing party in the world, mate ... " So I was informed as a young, green traveller arriving in Europe for the first time in the mid-1980s. I hadn't heard of the city of Pamplona, let alone the Fiesta of San Fermin. But I knew I had to be in the middle of this town, somewhere in northern Spain, on 6 July the following year.
And what a party it turned out to be! Nothing prepares you for the electric atmosphere, excitement, passion, crush and full-on fiesta that is the unbelievable San Fermin opening ceremony. And that's just the beginning. A further 7 days and 7 very long nights of virtually non-stop party follow. The way the Spanish party must be seen to be believed - IT IS the most amazing party in the world!
Carnival in Rio, scores of Hogmanay's, Mardi Grass in New Orleans, Las Fellas in Valencia, dozens of La Tomatina's, over 30 Oktoberfest's in Munich - been there and done that. Yes, they are great - but nothing in my opinion beats San Fermin for atmosphere and the ultimate Spanish party - and we have been saying so for 35 years now. While introducing and taking tens of thousands of travellers to this this astonishing fiesta has been an absolute privilege, and, spreading word of the barbaric so called "sport" of bullfighting to these travellers has been a must and has for years now been part of our ethos.
I have always believed in the party - definitely not the bulls, when it comes to Pamplona's infamous festival. And by introducing so many to the fiesta and at the same time opening so many minds to the cruelness of the bull fight I believe we are on a correct pathway to ridding the world of the brutal event.
The fiesta of San Fermin has been around for nearly two thousand years. It's part of Spanish culture and its going nowhere. It is so important to locals and has so much to offer visitors - I truly hope it is around for thousands more years. It's true that the bullfight is really only a small part of the festival - but it has to go. Ignoring or boycotting the fiesta will not make this happen. Understanding the fiesta, enjoying it while at the same time learning about this cruel event will hopefully see the end of it. And I believe the tide is turning and can see this more and more in the visitors we bring to Pamplona annually. The more they understand about the fiesta and also about the bullfighting, the more they want to see this part of it go and are also keen to spread the word with us.
Come 6 July I will again be in the middle of Pamplona's town hall square, celebrating the beginning of San Fermin with thousands of happily snozzled Spaniards. And over the next 7 days continuing to educate on the bullfight with the aim of one day enjoying the world's greatest party without it.
Personally, I hope it's much "sooner" rather than later!
Colin "Bomber" Dale
Owner - PP Travel
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