Culture vs. mistreatment: Charity says donkey has “no place” in Spain’s Peropalo festival

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An international charity is trying to stop the use of a donkey during a festival in Spain, where the animal is ridden by a drunk man through the streets of the bustling village of Villanueva de la Vera. 

The annual Peropalo festival, the origins of which are not known, also has a large puppet paraded through the village, before he is put on trial and then sentenced to death.

During the festival on Tuesday morning, a donkey named Bernabé was forced through the packed, cobbled streets of Villanueva de la Vera in the province of Cáceres, surrounded by a baying, intoxicated crowd with shotguns.

Representatives from British based animal welfare charity, The Donkey Sanctuary and their Spanish branch, El Refugio del Burrito, attended the event to collect evidence of the suffering endured by the donkey and to offer veterinary care. The evidence, along with a petition, will be presented to the regional government of Extremadura.

Bernabé was led through the streets of Villanueva de la Vera for more than an hour during the village's annual Peropalo festival.
Bernabé was led through the streets of Villanueva de la Vera for more than an hour during the village’s annual Peropalo festival.

The Donkey Sanctuary and El Refugio del Burrito is calling on the regional Government of Extremadura to change its law which currently protects animals from mistreatment under animal welfare legislation with the exception of festivities such as Peropalo which are listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Dawn Vincent, head of communications at The Donkey Sanctuary and who was at the festival for the first time (and 31 years after her grandmother, sanctuary founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, attended) said: “I understand there is a tradition that the people of Villanueva de la Vera wish to celebrate but the need to include a donkey in the event is utterly unnecessary.

“Whilst they used a large donkey, there was a complete disregard for Bernabé’s feelings and a total lack of understanding about the stress they were causing this poor donkey. We need the government to recognise that this is a form of animal mistreatment. There is absolutely no place for a donkey in Peropalo.”

There is still time to sign the petition that is to be presented to the government of Extremadura.

The Donkey Sanctuary is calling for a law change to protect animals from mistreatment at festivals such as Peropalo in the village of Villanueva de la Vera.
The Donkey Sanctuary is calling for a law change to protect animals from mistreatment at festivals such as Peropalo in the village of Villanueva de la Vera.
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