No, it’s not a pitch for a sequel to Jackass: The Movie, though it might as well have been: running with real bulls, just as they do in Spain, only right here in the U.S.A. (and we don’t mean on a ranch or at a rodeo).
The Great Bull Run, as its been dubbed by its organizers, will take place on Aug. 24 in Richmond, Virginia (along a drag race strip, no less), and like the annual event in Pamplona, Spain, which takes place during the festival of San Fermín, this one involves fencing a bunch of people in with a bunch of bulls and seeing who can make it out alive and/or unscathed. Can’t make it to Richmond this month? USA Today reports additional runs are being planned in Georgia, Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
“By participating in the run, you accept the risk that you might be trampled, gored, rammed or tossed in the air by a bull, or bumped, jostled, tripped or trampled by your fellow runners,” reads the event’s website (which also urges visitors to “Party Like Pamplona”). ”We do what we can to minimize those risks by using less-aggressive bulls than those used in Spain and allowing runners to hide in nooks and climb over the track fence if necessary, but make no mistake: You could get seriously injured in this event.”
Would you call a thrill-seeker that climbed into a people-filled tunnel with a bunch of incredibly strong and aggressive animals topping the scale at well over 1,000 pounds each a daredevil or a fool? Though relatively few have died (just 15) in European bull runs since record-keeping began in the 1920s, annual injuries (most from trips and spills, but also from goring) can climb into the hundreds.
And that’s just one aspect of criticism often leveled at bull runs: Animal rights groups argue it’s needlessly cruel and risky for the sake of mere spectacle and moneymaking. In fact Humane Society senior director Ann Chynoweth is calling on the USDA to investigate the groups staging the U.S. runs, arguing that the events “put the health and safety of both humans and animals at risk, without the required federal oversight.”
The event’s organizers claim they’re taking appropriate precautions, including using fencing that offers places to hide or get out of the way. They also claim that they don’t abuse the bulls and that the animals aren’t killed at the end of the run (as is the case in certain European countries like Spain still today).