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Are Spain's traditional bull runs under threat?

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By Jaime Velazquez
Spanish Bull runs
Spanish Bull runs   -   Copyright  OSCAR DEL POZO CANAS/AFP or licensors   -  

A bull run earlier this month in Becerril de la Sierra, a small town in Madrid's countryside, went smoothly with no serious injuries: just a few bumps and bruises.

But it’s not always like that. In Spain this year at least 13 people have lost their lives in bull runs and other festivities across the country. 

Antonio Leal, a breeder of fighting bulls, said the risk is part of the fiesta. 

"Lots of people enjoy risk as well," he said. "It's the adrenaline we all have inside. Being at risk and running in front of a bull."

Animal rights groups have criticised popular festivities involving bulls and an increasing number of voices are now questioning whether Spain should keep what can be a deadly tradition.

While the number of bullfighting events has dropped by 40% in Spain -- helped by a ban in Catalonia --, festivities such as bull runs remain unchanged, with more than 15,000 events each year.

“Events involving bull are more than just bullfighting in the arena. I guess they are escaping people’s radar because normally in popular bull festivals the animal doesn’t die in front of the people,” Ana Bejar, head of public relations for the Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals political movement, told Euronews. 

Bejar says these types of events should be controlled. 

"These popular festivities are taking human lives as well as animal lives, and the truth is there’s almost no control around them," she said. 

Mayors across Spain have shown their concerns about maintaining this tradition and -- at the same time --ensuring people’s safety.

Antonio Herrero, mayor of Becerril de la Sierra, believes the festivities should continue.

"We should not stop having these popular festivities that have been celebrated for years, but we need to enhance security measures," explained Herrero.

This year the bull run at Becerril de la Sierra has been moved to a new location; a shorter and wider alley to minimise accidents, and with more security to ensure only those who are fit to run are putting themselves in front of the bulls.