Filming for the 22nd Bond Film is causing controversy among animal rights groups in Italy reports The Times (Monday 13 August).

The film’s climax is due to take place in Siena, Tuscany with Italy’s famous horse race, the Palio, as a backdrop.

The 350-year-old bareback race has long been a focus for animal rights groups, such as the Italian Anti-Vivisection League, due to the number of equine casualties: they estimate 50 horses have died in the last 20 years.

The race takes place in the city’s Piazza del Campo, with the horses taking the sharp bends of the square at top speed. The record stands at 1min 14sec to complete three laps of the square and the rules are unconventional; jockeys are allowed to knock other competitors off their horses.

Animal rights campaigners say that, by featuring the race, the filmmakers are glamorising “a relic of medieval brutality”.

Despite these criticisms, the race is run in the packed square, twice a year, with tens of thousands of spectators. Each horse represents one of the 17 contrade, or city guilds. And the winner is awarded a banner of painted silk called a Palio. It is an important part of the city’s historical tradition.

The filming is due to take place on Thursday, if the words of dissent are ignored. The film, currently filming under the working title Bond 22, is due to be released in November 2008.

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