Spain is a country with a long history of slightly odd festivals. Some are stunning and beautiful while others, like the annual Las Luminarias festival, might have been better if they’d been stopped years ago. At least as far as some of Spain’s animal rights activists are concerned. In fact, just from a cursory look at part of the festival, it’s easy to see why animal rights activists think Las Luminarias is cruel to the horses that are forced to take part.
St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of animals and Las Luminarias takes place on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day every year. During it, villagers from the small town of San Bartolome de Pinares mount horses and, as a way of ‘cleansing’ themselves and their steeds for the coming year, they ride through bonfires set on fire in the town’s streets. The riders, of course, are higher than the flames. It’s the horses that bear the brunt of the hot cinders and climbing fires.
The Las Luminarias festival has been held for more than 500 years, with villagers believing its necessary to protect their horses for the coming year. In the last few years, however, Spanish animal rights activists have begun a campaign to have the festival stopped.
It’s hard to say whether Las Luminarias does border on animal cruelty or if, as the riders say, they make sure nothing happens to the horses and they certainly don’t get burned?
What is obvious though, is Las Luminarias is an age old tradition that does look quite spectacular. Whether it should still be held is a different matter entirely.