Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us

The Big Picture: Las Luminarias once again fanned the flames of controversy

The Spanish festival has returned only to be met with condemnation from animal rights groups.

Photo: Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency.

The return of a Spanish festival in which horses jump through bonfires in a “purification ritual” has once again fanned the flames of controversy, with animal rights groups condemning it as cruel “superstitious nonsense”.

About a hundred animals and their riders took part in Las Luminarias, which is held in San Bartolomé, about 60 miles west of Madrid, every January 16. The event was cancelled last year because of Covid-19.

Horses gallop through the town’s cobbled streets before passing through the bonfires, which tradition says will protect them from disease in the year ahead. Local resident Fermin Abad, 64, said: “This comes from thousands of years ago. So that animals did not get unwell, the old priests would bless them with fires so that they would jump and be purified.

Organisers say the animals come to no harm during the festival as their hair is trimmed to avoid catching fire. Festival goer Andrea Penela said: “You don’t even realise it. It’s like running your finger over a lighter.”

But animal protection groups say that being led through fire would be a terrifying experience for sensitive and skittish creatures like horses. Britain’s League Against Cruel Sports called Las Luminarias “a cruel and outmoded ritual which the organisers should end.”

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us

See inside the Shame of Britain edition

Mark Francois on the move. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty.

Mark Francois’ Spartan Victory is illiteracy on parade

They shared a famous TV Brexit moment. When Mark Francois wrote a book, there was only one person who could review it...

Paul Dacre. Photo; Getty Images

Paul Dacre and Ted Verity make one last stand for Boris Johnson

Their Daily Mail recently laid into those attacking Johnson for his law-breaking, lying and partying and told them it was time to "move on".