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Activists of PETA and AnimaNaturalis groups hold banners reading 'Stop bullfighting' as they protest outside the City Hall in Pamplona, northern Spain, on July 5, 2018, on the eve of the beginning of Sanfermines festival. EPA-EFE/VILLAR LOPEZ

Protesters take to streets on eve of Spain's running of the bulls

Animal rights activists are calling for the annual running of the bulls, a long-held Spanish tradition, to be abolished.

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Scores of animal rights activists gathered in Pamplona on Thursday to express their opposition to bullfighting on the eve of the start of the week-long San Fermín running of the bulls festivities in the northern Spanish city.
       
Protesters from animal rights groups AnimaNaturalis and PETA wore black outfits and red handkerchiefs — just as runners in the festival wear them tied around their necks — while some wore bull heads fashioned from cardboard during the action in front of the town hall in what has become an annual tradition.
       
"In Pamplona, dozens of bulls are brutally massacred in public," AnimaNaturalis said on its campaign site. "During each day of the San Fermín festivities, these animals are stabbed in bloody bullfights."
       
The group, which is campaigning to end the running of the bulls, pointed out that all the animals involved in the festivities die a "slow and agonizing" death hours after the iconic races.
       
Activists released red flares into the atmosphere, symbols of the bulls' blood spilled during the runs, and chanted slogans calling for bullfighting to be abolished, like: "San Fermín without cruelty" and "torture is not art nor culture."
       
A shout of "Long live San Fermín" emerged from the crowd of onlookers gathered nearby to watch the protesters, some of whom carried placards reading "Stop the bloody bullfights" in Spanish, Basque, English, Italian and Arabic. 
       
Director of AnimaNaturalis in Spain, Aida Gascón told journalists that bullfighting was "a spectacle that denigrates us as a society" and something that was not compatible with an empathetic, respectful and equal society. 
       
She did note, however, that 2018 was a "historic" moment because Pamplona mayor Joseba Asiron had raised the possibility of opening a calm and peaceful debate on the topic of bullfighting.

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