PROTEST
Villar Lopez  /  AP
Seminude members of the animal protection group, PETA, hold a banner reading Stop The Bloody Bullfights during a protest on the eve of the Spanish city's wildly popular running of the bulls, in Pamplona, Spain.
updated 7/6/2004 2:42:02 PM ET 2004-07-06T18:42:02

Several hundred animal rights activists -- some in their underwear, others topless -- marched through the streets of Pamplona Tuesday to condemn bullfighting on the eve of the Spanish city's wildly popular running of the bulls.

About 200 supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals came from 15 countries to march along the same cobblestone route that bulls and daredevil humans cover every July in a series of mad dashes from a holding pen to the bullring.

The protesters had planned to run totally nude but could not because they didn't get the necessary town hall permit, the Efe news agency reported. Police could not confirm the report.

Isabel Gonzalez, head of an anti-bullfighting organization in Belgium, said bullfighting is cruel.

"The animals suffer, and nobody has the right to mistreat them just to stage a fiesta," she said.

She said the running of the bulls also is inhumane because runners pull the bull's tails, kick them and "the animals run in a state of panic."

This year's festival begins Tuesday with a ceremony called the chupinazo, in which a small rocket is fired from a balcony overlooking the main square to signal the start of nine days of street parties in honor of the city's patron saint, San Fermin.

The first of eight bull runs is scheduled for Wednesday.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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