Representatives of the Donkey Sanctuary were among a “baying crowd” today (13 February) to collect evidence of the “suffering” caused by a traditional Spanish festival.
The charity was also on hand to provide veterinary assistance as a donkey called Bernabé was ridden through the streets of Villanueva de la Vera as part of the Peropalo festival.
The Donkey Sanctuary and its Spanish counterpart El Refugio del Burrito are campaigning for an end to the participation of donkeys in the event.
“I understand there is a tradition that the people of Villanueva de la Vera wish to celebrate but the need to include a donkey in the event is utterly unnecessary,” the charity’s Dawn Vincent said.
“They used a large donkey, but there was a complete disregard for Bernabé’s feelings and a total lack of understanding about the stress they were causing this poor donkey.”
The “stressed and terrified” animal was ridden by a grown man for over an hour, through the “deafening” noise of the crowds.
The charities plan to present their evidence of the effect this has on the animal to the regional government, along with a petition calling for the law to be changed. Currently, welfare legislation protects animals from mistreatment, but festivals such as Peropalo, which are listed as “intangible cultural heritage”, are exempt.
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“We need government to recognise that this is a form of animal mistreatment,” said Ms Vincent. “There is absolutely no place for a donkey in Peropalo.”
Festival organisers say its roots are medieval, and echo the dragging of a rapist called Peropalo through the town and his lynching. As recently as the 1980s, the donkey was often killed at the end of the event, but since the involvement of the Donkey Sanctuary, steps have been taken by organisers to address some welfare concerns.
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