100 horses driven through flames - controversial custom in Spain



Horses that go through the flames for their riders - "Las Luminarias" triggers criticism year after year. The controversial custom has been an integral part of Spanish ceremonies for over 500 years.

Meter-high flames, flying sparks and thick clouds of smoke in the night sky. The scene of the action is San Barolomé de Pinares , a small village of 700 people located 100 kilometers west of Madrid. Countless onlookers crowd the narrow streets to witness this year's fire cleansing. For 500 years, “Las Luminarias” has been celebrated here on the evening of January 16th. A religious ceremony meant to honor Saint Anthony, patron saint of farmers and farm animals.

But the fire was not only lit for decoration in the village square. It is the subject of a daring dare that is carried out by the men year after year. The horses are also included in the test of courage. While the meter-high wall of flames is initially only ridden around, later on horse and rider go right into it. This custom is said to purify the animals and protect them for the coming year .

Animal rights activists fall on deaf ears with veterinarians

Many animal rights activists consider this ritual nonsensical and dangerous . Around 100 rider-horse pairs took part in the spectacle again this year. "There is absolutely no logic in exposing the animals to such a stressful situation that goes completely against their own nature," said Juan Ignacio Codina, one of the festival's biggest critics. “In the middle of the 21st century, this ritual is a relic of days long past. No superstition or religious belief can justify this act of animal cruelty.” For Codina and the members of the animal rights party PACMA, “Las Luminarias” is a clear violation of regional and national animal welfare lawsIn 2013, there was a public complaint from the party against the festival, prompting veterinarians to check the condition of the horses. According to the competent authority, no reasons for complaint were found. The horses would not be harmed by running through the fire.

 Source - rtl.de

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