Picture this. You’re in Costa Blanca Spain. It’s early September. You’re seated in a spectator stand amidst a large, drinking crowd. A man-made beach separates you and the other spectators from the open sea. A 9-day festival called Javea Bous a la Mar aka “Bulls to the Sea” honoring Our Lady of Loreto is just about to start.
You gaze out to sea while waiting for the bulls to arrive. You may or may not ask who is this “Lady of Loreto”? Loreto refers to the house in which Virgin Mary was born. The story goes that a band of angels scooped up the little house from the Holy Land, and transported it first to Tersato, Dalmatia in 1291, then to Reananti in 1294, and finally to Loreto, Italy where it has been for centuries. Popes have always held the Shrine of Loreto in special esteem, and it is under their direct authority and protection.
But if you know this little bit of history, you’re probably only a handful or less who do. No one is there for a history lesson. Yes, the festival is steeped in tradition, but that’s not the point. It’s party time. The bulls – up to six – arrive by truck and get deposited into a secured area under the stand. The fun (or if you’re the bull – the horror) is about to begin.
The bull’s horns are lit on fire followed by a single firework going off. Ah, yes, the fun of it all. The burning bull reacts the way you might imagine. He’s panic stricken, terrified, and runs from the pain of his burning horns. He’s berserk and runs out into the open sandy area, where if things aren’t bad enough, a band of local lads run around further agitating the poor beast. Their aim is to bait him to attack them near the waterfront so that he will fall into the sea. He’s not supposed to die. He’s just supposed to entertain.
Horrifically, the torture of animals as entertainment dates back thousands of years. (Look for my upcoming article about the history of circuses.) Very sadly at this year’s “Bulls to the Sea” one bull gave his last performance. A spectator reported that after one of the bull’s horns was lit it took no more than five minutes for the animal to dive into the sea, and due to his extremely fatigued state, he was unable to stay afloat and all efforts to revive it were in vain. He died in the sea.
What else is there to say? There are no words to describe this outrage. I leave you with your thoughts and possibly a little heavier heart.
One last thing. Er… make that two last things. If you want to stop this atrocity of lighting bulls on fire at festivals and bullfights, log onto Change.org and sign a petition. It’s free. It’s quick. And it has the power to carry your voice along with thousands of others to be heard by the people who can stop this. My last thought is a question. From what I read, this festival didn’t always include burning the bull’s horns. But how does this festival (bull burning or not) of chasing a bull to dive into the sea honor the Virgin Mary??