A dog joins the fun during running of the bulls yesterday in Tlacotalpan. A dog joins the fun during running of the bulls yesterday in Tlacotalpan.

A kinder Candlemas gives bulls some relief

Alcohol restrictions and other measures allow 240-year-old event to go ahead

The annual celebration of Candlemas in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, means it’s time to run with the bulls on the streets of the “magical town.”

But this year’s event was a notably kinder, gentler version than that of previous years.

In the past the bulls were forced to swim about 250 meters across the Papaloapan river but yesterday they were transported in boats.

Once they reached shore the animals were released on streets that were cordoned off with metal and and bamboo fencing, offering extra protection for locals and visitors alike, and homes and storefronts along the way.

And those brave — or crazy — enough to try their luck at running with the bulls had to register first, pledging that they would cause no physical harm to the animals.

The event has been severely criticized in recent years for being cruel to the bulls but changes were ushered in by a new animal protection law dictating that anyone who harmed the bulls could be fined up to 15,000 pesos (about US $810) and even spend time in jail.

That law took effect a few months prior to last year’s event when it triggered an angry response from residents who wished to see the 240-year-old tradition continue. Sixty people were arrested after they challenged local officials who attempted to put a stop to the bull-running.

The restrictions put into place this year appear to have satisfied both bull runners and those concerned about ill treatment of the bulls — and perhaps the animals themselves.

In fact, the only ill treatment seems to have been doled out by the six bulls: several spectators and some of the animals’ handlers were hurt, but none seriously.

The sale of alcohol was restricted this year and both motorists and boaters on the river were subjected to surprise breathalyzer tests.

Tlacotalpan Mayor Christian Romero Pérez declared that despite the enforcement of alcohol restrictions and other new measures, the festivities attracted a good number of visitors.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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