The bloodthirsty event takes place in Tordesillas, Valladolid province in the centre-northern region of Castilla y León, and has sparked outrage and revulsion all over Spain.
A bull is released into a crowd, and participants hurl spears at it either on foot or from horseback.
Once the bull is down, the ‘game’ is over, and it is left to bleed to death – and no bull comes out alive, since it is surrounded by lance-throwers and has nowhere to run to avoid them.
This week, the regional government announced it was against the law for bulls to be killed as part of ‘popular festivals’ except in a bull-ring – although protesters felt this made little difference since, even if the bull was not dead by the end of the spectacle, its injuries were so severe it would not survive anyway.
But this weekend, the National Association for Animal Welfare and Protection (ANPBA) warned that the local bye-law covering the very same fiesta states that it is forbidden to spear the bull unless this was with the specific aim of killing it.
And if lances were only allowed to be used with the intention of killing the bull, the regional law banning bull-killing means that the festival effectively now ‘bans itself’ with its own rule-book.
The ANPBA says if the mayor of Tordesillas, who has always been determined the tournament would continue, still wanted to keep it going, he would have to substantially alter the rules so as to adapt it to regional law, as this takes precedence over local bye-laws.
This would effectively spell the end of the spectacle.
According to the animal welfare group, campaigns to stop the Toro de la Vega taking place have been ongoing since 1966, when spearing and lancing was banned by the Civil Governor of Valladolid.
In 1966, the bull was released from the town into the countryside, rather than in reverse, and the ‘game’ involved mere ‘herding’, and the ANPBA has called for the practices established in this year to be brought back in, in order to spare the bull physically, provided all steps were taken to ensure the bull was not subjected to psychological torture, either.
The new regional government no-kill law is, in the ANPBA’s view, a ‘triumph’ for the ‘unstoppable revolution’ of ‘public sensitivity’ against ill-treatment of animals in festivals, but admitted that there was still ‘a lot left to do.’
Tordesillas’ mayor, however, has announced he will appeal against the new regional law.