Representatives from The Donkey Sanctuary’s Spanish branch, El Refugio del Burrito, handed a petition containing 24,229 signatures to regional government officials of Extremadura in Spain calling for a change in the law to stop the use of a live donkey at the Peropalo festival.
The petition was handed to Extremadura’s Chief of Interior Affairs and Health and Safety at Public Events, Victor Garcia Vega by Veronica Sanchez, (director of El Refugio del Burrito) and Andrea Torreño (donkey welfare adviser) on 3 July. It follows renewed pressure on the Extremadura regional authorities to stop the use of a donkey in the traditional Peropalo festival held every Shrove Tuesday in Villanueva de la Vera after veterinary tests on the animal proved it underwent suffering during the event.
Veronica Sanchez said: “El Refugio del Burrito and The Donkey Sanctuary would like to thank Victor Garcia Vega for the opportunity to meet with us, where positive discussions were held. This is an important milestone in our campaign to stop the use of a donkey in the Peropalo festival.
“We would like to also thank all those who have supported our campaign and signed our petition. We can only end abuse such as this with our collective voice.”
The Donkey Sanctuary and its Spanish team have been campaigning for a change in the law regarding the use of a donkey at the Peropalo festival, which is allowed due to a legal loophole that permits animal cruelty when part of a cultural tradition.
The festival depicts the historical hanging of a rapist by dragging a terrified donkey ridden by a fully-grown drunk man through the village’s cramped streets. The charity attends each year and gathers evidence that has shown that the donkeys used undergo significant stress.
At the 2018 event, the charity was able to evidence that the donkey, Bernabe, did suffer.
Veronica Sanchez said: “Our scientific tests don’t lie. The samples we took show increased levels of cortisol in the blood of the donkey after the event when compared to the sample we took before. We know the donkey has to endure stress and trauma as part of its participation in the festival, but for anyone that doubted it, we now have categorical proof – and the authorities need to act on that proof.”
Information evidenced by The Donkey Sanctuary and El Refugio del Burrito is being combined with the findings of a recent opinion poll, which shows that 61% of adults in Spain agree the authorities should do more to stop the use of live animals in festivals if they are stressed and at risk of physical harm.
The Donkey Sanctuary firmly believes that Peropalo is no place for a live donkey, and the festivities could easily continue without one.
Simon Pope, rapid response and campaigns manager at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “We recognise that it is important to maintain traditions, but not where they cause unnecessary harm to animals. The governing authorities for Villanueva de la Vera need to act and stop the use of a live donkey at the Peropalo festival. Cruelty like this has no place in a modern, forward-looking Spain and the veterinary results are supported by the poll results that the people of Spain are of this opinion too. Unless the Extremadura authorities act in response to the poll's findings, they will not be reflecting the will of their own people.”