Algemesí (Valencia, Spain)
In just four years, the Becerradas of Algemesí, also known as Becerradas Cadafaleras, went from being a virtually unknown event outside of its local parameters to gaining the attention of the major national media in Spain. The protests of 2014 against this event had surprised many. Fights, arrests and injuries continued for four days when the holding of this festival was challenged by animal rights protestors.
The “becerradas of Algemesí” are held in the town with the same name, in the province of Valencia, usually in late September and continue for one week. The events take place during the night when the town residents are outside and at varying degrees of intoxication as well as armed with sharpened flags, swords, nails and other weapons. Young calves, one or two years old, are released to run in the town square. These animals are totally helpless. They enter the town square most of the time with the intention of playing and are immersed in one of the worst acts of torture. Anyone can insert or plunge their pointed weapon into any part of the calves’ bodies: their bellies, legs, necks… Often the animals pass from side to side on the receiving end of some pointed object. They try to escape, until they realize that it is useless.
To participate in the torture, one is only required to belong to one of the “Peñas”, who previously have participated in an auction where they have bought the right to kill a certain number of calves. The calves die after a long agony in which they moan and scream while their little bodies are brutally maimed by flags, swords and nails. This carnage is witnessed by children.
Like always, the argument used to justify this torture is that this is a tradition; a tradition that is centuries old, some even think it goes back 400 years. In fact the government delegate in Valencia, Serafin Castellano, came to the defense of this “fiesta” with the main and only argument: “It is a very important celebration of long ago,” he said. Despite the opposition of a significant number of citizens and despite the fact that in 2014, only six of the 27 bullfighting associations of Algemesi joined the celebration in June, Castellano continued his support of the celebration, becoming its main backer.
Some images recorded from previous years, have made their way to television highlighting the cruelty of the festivity. Recently, measures have been taken to ensure that the media does not get into the square in order to prevent the dissemination of images documenting the brutality of this event. Unfortunately Algemesí is not the only place where becerradas are celebrated. They are also popular in places like El Escorial (Madrid) or Orozko (Bizkaia) among others.