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Horses are made to jump through flames at this controversial Spanish festival. See pics

The festival, dubbed Las Luminarias, takes place in San Bartolome de Pinares, northwest of Madrid, on the eve of Saint Anthony’s Day, Spain’s patron saint of animals.

art and culture Updated: Jan 17, 2018 15:09 IST
Reuters, San Bartolme De Pinares
Spain,Madrid,Spanish festivals
A man rides a horse through flames during the annual Luminarias celebration. (Reuters)

Scores of horse riders jumped their mounts through roaring flames in a Spanish village this week, as part of an annual festival that locals say is an integral part of their culture, but animal rights groups have condemned. The festival, dubbed Las Luminarias, takes place in San Bartolome de Pinares, northwest of Madrid, on the eve of Saint Anthony’s Day, Spain’s patron saint of animals.

On the eve of Saint Anthony's Day, dozens ride their horses through the narrow cobblestone streets of the small village of San Bartolome. (AP)
Two women ride a horse through flames during the annual Luminarias celebration. (Reuters)

Participants believe that horses who leap through the flames of specially constructed bonfires will be purified during the coming year. Organisers claim that the festival dates back some 500 years. Animal rights groups have long been critical of the event. Spanish political party the Animalist Party Against the Mistreatment of Animals described the festival on its website as an example of “clear animal abuse”.

A man rides a horse through smoke in the village of San Bartolome de Pinares, northwest of Madrid, Spain. (Reuters)
Animal right activists have criticised this tradition. (Reuters)
A horse waits for the start of the Luminarias. (Reuters)

The town’s mayor Maria Jesus Martin Gomez disagrees. “The only thing I have to say is that the animals don’t suffer anything at all,” she said.

“The government of Castilla and Leon assign us a vet and the City Hall hires another one, who is making rounds all around the village during the festival. Every year they produce a report which has always been favourable and nothing has ever happened here.”

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First Published: Jan 17, 2018 15:08 IST