While the role of the goat has drawn a lot of controversy this year, there are many festivals worldwide where animals play an integral part. In some cases, where the issue of animal treatment has been raised, the festivals are learning to adapt.
In Manganese de la Polvorosa, in western Spain, the chosen goat for the town’s festival was less fortunate than King Puck. Every year on the fourth Sunday in January a goat was taken to the top of the church bell tower and thrown into the crowd below. There was an attempt to catch it in a canvas sheet. Sometimes the goat survived, other times it didn’t. Happily, the live goat throwing has stopped and a toy goat is now used
However, other animal-related festivals persist in Spain. Do the young men who gather in Tordesillas in Central Spain for the festival of Toro de La Vega consider lancing a bull repeatedly and chasing it through the streets in agony is sport?
Easter is a popular time for animal related events; and in parts ofBelgium, Germany and the Netherlands it was the goose that got it in the neck. People on horseback vied to pull the head of a goose while galloping past the unfortunate creature swinging from a rope. While in the past a live goose was used, nowadays the goose is already dead.
We think of the Nepalese as smiling, spiritual, caring people, however last year for the five-yearly festival of Gadhimai 200,000 animals were butchered – water buffaloes, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, mice and pigeons, all in the name of pleasing the goddess of power.
The good news is that this won’t happen at the next festival, in 2019. The temple announced last month that the next festival will be a celebration of life and there will be no slaughtering of animals.
In some festivals it is the animals which get to do the hurting – like the bull-run in Pamplona. The annual festival of San Fermin in July attracts young men from all over the world who think they can outrun the bulls. This year eight men were injured on the first day. There have been deaths over the years.
Sometimes the animal is feted. At Port Lincoln, in Australia, the town celebrates its fishing industry with a tuna-throwing competition (where the tuna are already dead).
Unusually, a festival in Talkeetna in Alaska involved the throwing of baked moose poop. However, the festival became so popular that it had to be discontinued. Five thousand people pouring into a town of 870 people was just too much to cope with – whatever about coping with the poop.
Animals are celebrated throughout Thailand at various festivals, many involving elephants. One of the most amazing to see is the Festival of the Monkey at Lopburi province, when 3,000 primates are treated to a banquet.
There are a host of other festivals around the world where animals are killed or mutilated; and the things people do to animals in the name of religious or cultural reasons can be horrifying.
If the worse thing the goat endures at Puck Fair is the noise and raucousness, fortunately he is an observer and not a participant. After three days he will be released back to the mountains, well fed and groomed – perhaps to convey to other goats stories of the crazy human antics he had to watch?