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Gerry Ryan criticised over upbeat Pamplona bullrun coverage
17 July 2009

ICABS has lodged a complaint with RTE over a 20 minute Pamplona feature on the Gerry Ryan show which "effectively amounted to a promotion of an activity involving appalling animal cruelty". During an interview with an RTE employee who said he fulfilled a lifelong ambition by partaking in the bullrun, Gerry described the San Fermin festival as "just fantastic". He also claimed that "a lot of women find it hard to understand and a lot of men find it hard to resist."

In an email to the radio show, ICABS stated: "Your description of the San Fermin festival as 'just fantastic' is unlikely to be shared by participants lured to Pamplona by romanticised media portrayals but who find themselves being carried away paralysed, with serious lifelong injuries or dead. A BBC News correspondent captured one such incident as follows: 'The fighting bull which gored [the victim] weighed half a tonne. It hit him in the abdomen, severed a main artery, sliced through his kidney and punctured his liver, before tossing him seven metres in the air...he died in hospital of massive blood loss.'"

"We found the upbeat and light-hearted treatment of this controversial subject to be particularly inappropriate given the fact that another man lost his life at this year's bullrun. This individual is just the latest in a long line of casualties and fatalities."
Black bull on ground behind barrier with tongue limply hanging out
Another victim of the Pamplona bullrun. The bulls are beaten and prodded to make them run and are later killed brutally in the local bullring. (Photo: BBC)

Gerry Ryan announced that the account given by RTE's Dermot Rigley had provided "a fairly clear image of what's involved" at Pamplona but, in fact, there wasn't much clarity for listeners as regards the integral animal suffering.

There was no mention, for example, of the way bulls are frightened into stampeding through the streets with the use of electric shock prods and sharpened sticks or that they may slip to the ground and sustain painful cuts and bruises and sometimes broken bones.

Also omitted was the fact that the bulls that provided so much excitement and entertainment for Mr Rigley are brutally killed in the bullring later in the day. In our correspondence, we referred to an Irish Times report last August in which humanitarian journalist Don Mullan vividly conveyed the horror of bullfighting. Describing matadors as "cowardly butchers" he told of how he witnessed an injured bull convulsing, a bull bleeding from its mouth and nose with "its tormented cries clearly audible" and a bull with its front covered in "liquid crimson".

Not until the dying seconds of the Gerry Ryan show was the element of animal suffering acknowledged with Gerry quickly conceding that "there are those of you who think it's an incredibly cruel and foolish thing to be involved in."

If you are one of the millions of people in Ireland, Europe and across the world who view the Pamplona bullrun as incredibly cruel and foolish, please join us in lodging a complaint with RTE about this segment of the Gerry Ryan show. Ask RTE to stop allowing animal cruelty events to be glorified on Ireland's national airwaves. Urge them to redress the balance by conveying to listeners to appalling fear and suffering endured by the bulls during and after the bullrun and warning listeners about the very real dangers involved.


Gerry Ryan
RTE Radio Centre
Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Tel: 1850 715 922 (from Ireland only)
Text: 51552

Dear Gerry,

I am writing to express my disappointment at your show on Monday 13th July in which you described the San Fermin festival as "just fantastic" and presented the cruel Pamplona bullrun as a fascinating event.

The bulls used in this event are subjected to appalling abuse - they're hit and prodded by bullrun participants and scared into stampeding along the streets. As you are aware, the bulls are mercilessly tortured in a bullring at the end of the day. This event is neither fantastic nor fascinating but brutal and barbarous. Your enthusiasm for an event involving so much cruelty is regrettable.

I hope that you will consider the reality of Pamplona and refrain from glorifying bullrunning on future shows.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name and location]

Bull sticking horn into body of falling man
A man is gored by a bull during the Pamplona bullrunning festival. (Photo: AP)

Bullrun criticised by Irish journalist

Thankfully, the cruelty of the Pamplona bullrun was highlighted by one commentator in the Irish media. Writing in the Irish Independent on July 14th, columnist Ian O'Doherty had this to say:

"...The bulls, exhausted, confused and terrified from running down the slippery, cobbled streets of Pamplona are then brought to the bull ring. There, they are promptly stabbed by a bunch of picadors to further deplete its energy and will to live, before some Spanish ponce in gold lame hot pants and slip-on shoes comes out and bravely kills the nearly dead bull. Before cutting off its ears."

Video: Bullfighting cruelty

Bullfighting: More information

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