About 11:30 p.m. On Saturday, the "emboladores" contest (a tradition where a group of men light the horns of a bull with fire) began in the Spanish town of Morella, in a bullring full of small children.
From the first minutes, the activists who were going to record the event were pointed out by the organizers, who through the public address system indicated how they were dressed and began to harass them for using the cameras.
“We have been present for years to witness these cruel traditions in the villages and have evidence of the mistreatment and suffering of animals. However, we can never get used to the harassment and aggression with which we are threatened in some of these shows”, explains Aïda Gascón, director of AnimaNaturalis in Spain.
The most tense situation of the event occurred after the second animal came out into the arena. The rope with which the horns are surrounded was not cut correctly, and the bull began to run terrified with it still attached. Once it got rid of the "embolador" that was clinging to its tail, the bull shot out until it hit hard on the head with a wooden box that was in the bullring.
“They are not isolated cases. Blows, accidents, collapses, stress and exhaustion are perhaps the most common for animals that are forced to participate in these events”, says Gascón. "And what is not unusual either is the coordination of aficionados and organizers to prevent us from documenting and bringing to light the reality of popular festivities with bulls", he adds.
The bull collapsed and was noticeably stunned. Immediately, several fans ran up to our team shouting "put the camera down!" A group of men moved forward, even going so far as to grab the cameras menacingly. Between mockery and macho comments, the group justified their attitude by acknowledging that the scene "was not pleasant" and stating that they did not want the record of "the most despicable" of the party, in the words of a bullfighter.
Several minutes passed until the organization managed to drag the animal to the bullpen. It kept wobbling and falling over and over again in the plaza, although it was impossible to get pictures of the moment. Our investigation team feared for his physical integrity and experienced moments of extreme tension. Even after this group of aficionados withdrew, they continued to receive kicks in the back and mocking comments over the public address system. As for the animal's state of health, at no time was the public informed that it was well or regretted the dramatic incident.
The scene was repeated again minutes after the third ball, when another bull charged into a huge tangle of rope that the participants had abandoned in the arena. The bull was left with its head entangled in a heavy coil of rope, with the risk of catching fire. Quickly, the same men and some other fans began to cover the cameras and reprimand the two activists.
From AnimaNaturalis and CAS International we denounce the censorship and the situation of violence experienced last Saturday in Morella by our photographers, who were peacefully in the square documenting the event. This attempt to restrict the right to information demonstrates the concern of the bullfighting sector that images of the cruel reality of its festivals are made public.