Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Dangerous businesses.

This morning we were almost killed on a pedestrian crossing. Ok, I exaggerate a little. It was one of those crossings without lights, where you rely on the goodwill of the drivers to stop and let you cross. Even in the UK, where zebra crossings are almost sacrosanct, I am careful to ensure that the driver has seen me before setting off. Here in Spain, we try to make eye contact with the driver. Which has on some occasions just resulted in a smile and a friendly wave and nothing more. This morning we were safely across the first half of the crossing, giving a wave to the polite driver who stopped, when it became obvious that the chap driving the red car on the other side of the road had no intention of stopping. In fact, I would say he put his foot down and did a little swerve to make sure he had no need to stop for the likes of us. The air was momentarily quite blue. 

I should not be surprised. Later in the day I saw a police car come to a belated stop at a traffic lights-controlled crossing. About half his bonnet was over the crossing when he stopped. So he was not exactly anticipating the lights changing, was he? And then there's the parking close to pedestrian crossings. The mere fact that there are official, proper parking spots right next to the crossings says it all! No wonder people think nothing of stopping ON the crossing, and usually then waiting with their lights flashing for their expected passenger to turn up! 

Different countries with different ways of looking at things you see! 

A fair number of my British Facebook friends are very soppy about animals and some of them seem to "follow" rescue centres, an activity which results in their posting pictures of cute dogs or poor, pathetic dogs that have been badly treated. Here recently there was a case of someone throwing a dog they no longer wanted over the wall of the dog pound. Not just leaving it tied up outside as a reasonable person might do! A little different! 

Then there's the question of the bulls. The pros and cons of the corrida form an argument that will keep running for a good while yet but this year it's the bull running that is making the news in a big way. Most of us tend to think that it's just Pamplona that has the craziness to run bulls through the streets and let all and sundry have a go at racing them, dodging them, waving capes at them and so on. And, yes, I know that a lot of the crazy people are tourists. But it isn't just Pamplona. Loads of places run bulls through the streets as part of their fiesta. 

The trouble is that this year more people than usual are being gored by the bulls and more are being killed. A Spanish journalist who regularly comments on bullfights says that this is largely because of the reduced numbers of bullfights proper. Because of changes in the law and also because of the economic crisis which there are about 300 fewer bullfights scheduled for this year as compared with the years before the crisis. Yet the number of ranchers who are raising fighting bulls has stayed the same. So what do they do with the fighting bulls? 

Well, there is no law that says which bulls must be used for which activity but generally the biggest and fiercest animals are set aside to square off against matadors. This year, however, many of those larger, fiercer animals are running down Spanish streets, charging at people. And there are around 16% more bull running events organised for this year as well! A recipe for disaster, if ever there was one. An encounter with a charging bull is rather like having a car drive straight at you. If it's been bred to be fierce and aggressive, what chance do you have. I've never understood the need for such an adrenaline drive myself but it wouldn't do for us all to be the same. 

Meanwhile in Italy, there have been protests against the Palio in Siena. This bareback horse race which takes place in Siena's beautiful main square is an exciting and popular event. Like much of the ceremony that accompanies it, complicated flag waving, colourful parades in brilliant costumes, each district having its own colours, it dates back to mediaeval times. And like a lot of mediaeval stuff, animals suffer in it. Horses are hurt. They fall on the cobbles, break legs and have to be put down. And yet, these horses are lovingly cared for all year. As with the fighting bulls, we are left wondering what would happen to these beautiful animals if the events were totally banned. 

This is a much more complex situation to legislate than what goes on at pedestrian crossings.

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