A traditional Spanish festival has caused a stir with animal rights activists who have slammed it as abusive and cruel to horses.
The Luminarias de San Bartolome de Pinares fiesta takes place in the municipality of San Bartolome de Pinares in the province of Avila, located in Castile y Leon, every year.
The political party PACMA ( Animalist Party against Mistreatment of Animals) has slammed the tradition, sharing footage on social media and claiming the horses suffer “dangerous levels of fear and stress”.
In a press statement, PACMA said on 19th January: “The Animalist Party regrets that another year passes where horses are forced to go through the flames of multiple bonfires spread along the streets.
“This causes them a level of fear and stress that can be dangerous as well as risking injuries and burns all over their body.”
The political party said: “We publicly denounce the animal abuse suffered by the horses during the traditional festival of the Luminarias de San Bartolome de Pinares (Avila), held last Sunday, January 16.
“The inhabitants of the locality prepare bonfires in the streets and riders force the horses to go through the flames, with all the risk that entails.
“This goes against their instinct, causes them great stress and exposes them to injuries and burns, as explained by veterinarian Agustin Gonzalez from the Veterinary Clinic Banos del Carmen in Malaga.”
Gonzalez told PACMA: “Horses have a natural fear of fire because they assume it is a danger. If you make them face it, they suffer anguish and panic, which can endanger their lives because of the level of stress they suffer.”
The veterinarian also compared the horses’ ordeal to forcing an antelope to approach a lion, adding: “Fire and embers can cause wounds all over their body, especially in the extremities, which are always serious in this type of animal… This is clearly animal abuse.”
PACMA representatives, who are running in the Castile and Leon elections on 13th February, have called on the City Council of San Bartolome de Pinares and the other municipalities in the Spanish autonomous community to “halt all festivals that involve the mistreatment and suffering of animals for entertainment and tradition”.