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Pamplona bull-running festival scrapped for first time in decades

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Demonstrators wear faces masks while protesting against San Fermin's bullfighting, canceled this year by the conoravirus pandemic, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Tuesday, July 7
Demonstrators wear faces masks while protesting against San Fermin's bullfighting, canceled this year by the conoravirus pandemic, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Tuesday, July 7   -   Copyright  Alvaro Barrientos/AP Photo
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Every year, huge crowds flock to Pamplona for a peculiar tradition: overindulging on Sangria and getting chased by angry bulls down the Spanish city’s cobbled streets.

But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the week-long San Fermin festival to be cancelled this year for the first time since the country’s Civil War in the 1930s.

Now animal rights activists are calling for a permanent end to the event’s traditional bull runs and bullfights, popularised by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" also known as "Fiesta".

The cancellation was decided in April because of Spain’s high COVID-19 infection rates. The pandemic has killed more than 28,000 people in the Iberian nation.

This year, instead of the real thing, Pamplona is airing reruns of past races.

Still, residents have been dressing up in white clothes and traditional red scarves to mark what should have been the start of the festival.

Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to prevent impromptu parties at bars or on streets.

Silvia Azpilicueta, head of commerce and tourism at Pamplona, told Euronews her team expects the festival’s cancellation to create a revenue shortfall of €100 million, which amounts to around half of the city’s budget.

She certainly hopes the event will be back in full swing next year.

"It's a huge celebration of happiness and friendship. The bulls are a very important part of it, of course, but there's much more to it," Azpilicueta told Euronews.

"There's a lot of cultural activity, music, gastronomy, friendship gatherings. And the bulls are just a part of it."