Sidmouth donkey charity opposes Spanish festival

Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary continues stance against Peropalo carnival using donkeys

THE international arm of the animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary, whose headquarters is at Sidmouth, continues its stance against the annual festival which takes place tomorrow (Tuesday) in the Spanish village of Villanueva de la Vera. Central to this tradition is the carnival of Peropalo where a donkey is forced to endure a physically and mentally cruel ordeal.

The Donkey Sanctuary says it strongly opposes practices which exploit the welfare rights of donkeys and mules and believes the format of the current festival contradicts local legislation concerning animal welfare in the region of Extremadura.

Paul Svendsen, Director of European Operations for The Donkey Sanctuary, describes what usually happens during the carnival of Peropalo:

“The part of the festival where the donkey is used was originally an initiation for the youths of the village who were going into the army.

“Even though army subscription has finished in Spain, the village youths – intoxicated after several days of celebrations – still bring out a donkey which one of them rides through the village.

“A group of around 20 youths surround the donkey and force it through the narrow streets, crowding it so that nobody can get to the donkey to help it and spoil their fun. “If the donkey falls they haul it back to its feet and continue to push it around the village streets surrounded by hundreds of spectators all pushing to try and get a view of the donkey.

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“In previous years we have witnessed alcohol being forced down the donkey’s throat, its ears being bitten, and groups of youths pushing the donkey until he collapses to the ground.

“Adding to this shotguns being fired in the air only feet from the petrified animal, the risk of serious physical harm, and knowing the donkey’s gentle and kind nature, the mental torment must be terrible.

“Despite the presence of Junta de Extremadura laws which supposedly prevent the cruel treatment of animals in carnivals and festivals, this tradition is still set to continue in 2011.

“We will continue to campaign for any action which protects donkeys and mules and promotes their welfare worldwide.”

Further information about the carnival of Peropalo can be found online at and