Activists outraged by ‘deadly’ tradition in Spain which sees horses gallop through fire

A LONG-STANDING tradition in Spain has been condemned by animal activists across the world after footage from ‘Las Luminarias’ has made its way onto social media.

In a celebration to mark San Antón, the patron saint of animals, huge crowds amassed in the quaint Spanish town of San Bartolome de Pinares, where spectators applaud horses who gallop through bonfires and tread on hot coals.

The tradition, which is reported to be 500-years-old, signifies the purification and protection of animals for the year ahead. However, images of the animals riding through the scorching hot fires has been denounced by animal activists and charities, where they have called the tradition an act of ‘animal cruelty.’

Las Luminarias dates back to the 18th century. Credit: Espacio Mex.

Situated in the province of Ávila, some 100 km from Madrid, ‘Las Luminarias’ is one of the most important events in the calendar for the town’s 600 inhabitants. Here, for two days in January, smoke and fire fills every corner of the town in a bid to rid the forces of evil and to give good health to the animals. Rooted in the 18th-century, horses jump through blazing bonfires until the early hours of the morning to the rhythm of drums under the night’s sky.

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The celebrations are said to rid evil sprits and protect animals. Credit: Pablo Blazquez.

In recent years, the National Association for the Protection and Welfare of Animals (PACMA) has asked the City Council of San Bartolomé de Pinares to stop using horses in this way at popular event. This was however denied given the importance residents in San Bartolome de Pinares give to the tradition.  

As footage of the celebrations was posted on Twitter, one user simply expressed their distaste for the event and called it “Pure evil”. Another asked: “How can this be allowed in the 21st century? They could die!!” with one user stating: “Horrible! This is animal cruelty!”

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The tradition dates back to the 18-century. Credit: Pablo Blazquez.

Others defended those who took part in the event, claiming: “Las Luminaries is to protect animals” adding that “they would not do it if the animals were in danger.”

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Written by

Isha Sesay