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Pamplona’s famous running of the bulls festival gets under way with traditional fireworks

Animal rights campaigners stormed one of the first fights of Pamplona’s controversial San Fermin festival today – just seconds after a bull was speared to death.

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Footage of the incident was released by Peta UK, which posted a video on Twitter and wrote: ‘Activists leap into bullring in Pamplona to protest cruel, barbaric bullfights on the first day of San Fermin festival.’

A bullfighter is shown killing a bull with spears while being cheered on by the crowd after winning his battle in the ring. At one point, the bull’s legs can be see twitching before it is towed away.  

It is not known how many protesters stormed the bullring but they can be seen running across it while the crowd whistles and boos. 

At one stage, one of the demonstrators take his shirt off before being tackled by stewards and escorted out of the ring. 

Pamplona’s famed running of the bulls festival was opened today by the blast of a traditional firework — marking the start of nine days of uninterrupted partying. 

Peta has already expressed its disgust over the San Fermin traditions, saying at least 48 bulls are killed during the festival’s bullfights and bull runs each July.

‘The mayor of Pamplona needs to stop this bloodbath,’ said the group in a protest letter.  

The ‘Chupinazo’ was blasted at 12pm local time in Pamploma, a city in northern Spain, to announce the start of the eight-day San Fermin fiesta.

A member of the city’s official brass band launched the rocket to mark 100 years since the group’s foundation.

Jesús Garísoain, the member chosen, declared ‘Long live San Fermin’, the saint honoured by the festival, as he spoke to crowds from the city hall’s balcony. 

The blast was met with an eruption of joy from revellers who stained their traditional attire of white clothes and a red scarf pink as they sprayed each other with wine.

During the festival, Pamplona’s population swells from nearly 200,000 residents, as around a million visitors descend on the city to watch the bull runs along a 930 yard (850meter) street course to the city’s bullring.  

The city is also trying to leave behind the scandal that stemmed from a gang rape of an 18-year-old woman during the 2016 festival. The initial prison sentences for sexual abuse to the five defendants was seen as too lenient and led to widespread public outcry, galvanising the country’s feminist movement.

Last month, Spain’s Supreme Court overruled the lower courts and sentenced the men to 15 years in prison for rape. In the full-length ruling, published on Friday, judges say the attackers were fully aware of the crime they were committing and bragged about it in a WhatsApp group that they called ‘The Animal Pack.’

The case has led to authorities in Pamplona to step up police surveillance and set up information booths, cellphone apps and 24-hour hotlines allowing instant reporting of abuse cases.

The protests of pro-animal rights groups have also become a fixture in recent years. On the eve of the festival, dozens of semi-naked activists staged a performance simulating speared bulls lying dead on Pamplona’s cobbled streets to draw attention at what they see as animal cruelty for the sake of human entertainment.

Bullfights are protected under the Spanish Constitution as part of the country’s cultural heritage.

The fiesta of San Fermin began to honor the city’s first bishop, who was beheaded in France while preaching the gospel early in the third century. 

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