2019 Pamplona Bull Run Protest

Experienced runners argue that the adrenaline high of the annual Running of the Bulls has diminished greatly in recent years. Protesters staged a sit-in on Day 5 of the annual Spanish festival, claiming that the world-famous encierros lack the danger and thrills of years past.  

Early in the morning of Thursday July 11,  dozens of veteran runners gathered on the course to protest what they label a “denaturing” of the Pamplona bull runs, which are undoubtedly the main draw of the 9-day San Fermin Festival.

2019 Pamplona bull run protest

The veteran bull runner protest didn’t last long, but their message was loud and clear. The spine-tingling excitement of running with the bulls is gone, in large part to the trained and docile steers that herd the beasts too easily and much too fast. While this sentiment is only held by a group of die-hard runners — men who are purists about the tradition of the centuries-old event — their complaints are based in fact.

The city of Pamplona has ramped up safety measures for the San Fermin bull runs over the past 13 years. As early as 2006, city officials began applying no-slip adherent on the course’s cobblestone streets to prevent pileups and, more recently, they hired a new company to supply the steers (known locally as cabestros). The issue with these steers is that they are repeatedly trained to run the course, are in excellent physical condition, and can actually keep pace with the 6 fighting bulls that are run each morning.

The result is that there is less chance of a bull breaking loose from the pack and wreaking havoc in the process.

According to the protest, the Pamplona bull runs have become less of a chaotic spectacle and much too safe. Many of these old hands say they miss the risk of narrowly avoiding the wrath of a rogue bull – something that happens with less frequency.

Running of the Bulls still has plenty of danger

Pamplona city councilmen say the protesters’ arguments are absurd, and that the runners lose sight of the fact that on any given day of the encierros, a bull could break free and kill a person. Every year, dozens of runners are seriously hurt in the Pamplona bull runs.

One thing is for certain: there is still plenty of danger at the Running of the Bulls, which attracts up to 2,000 runners on weekdays, and more on weekends. If you are interested yourself be sure to check out the Dates for the 2020 Running of The Bulls.