Following our mission of helping donkeys and mules all over Spain, we were present at this year’s “El Rocío” to help protect the welfare of the equines at the festival, and to prevent their mistreatment. “El Rocío” is one of the biggest Spanish festivals held in June eachyear and the biggest, most crowded pilgrimage in the country. Thousands of people, and animals, flock to this particular spot in South West Spain to participate in this religious festival. What our welfare team found there, however, was far from religious indeed; it was a scene fit for Dante’s Inferno. Hundreds of equines were being forced to work day and night, with little rest, food or water. Some of the animals were starving, extremely thin and exhausted.
Many of these equines, mostly mules, horses and ponies, were privately owned and used, but some others were rented out. Our team has found some cases in which privately owned animals were in bad conditions, but it was mostly animals for rent the ones that got it worse. They were rented out illegally, sometimes even to minors, and then terribly abused by those renting them. You can see it clearly in the picture that illustrates this story. That poor creature was up for rent, believe it or not. The animals were old, tired, undernourished, full of open wounds, but , as if they were slaves, they kept on being used literally until they dropped.
Our team treated dozens of equines in urgent need of vet treatments in situ. Mainly the open wounds caused by poor, inadequate, rusty tack. Many exhausted animals were also seen to.
In all cases of cruelty, we have pressed charges and informed the proper authorities. Due to the size of this event, our small team surely missed some cases, but we are preparing a plan for next year’s edition, in conjunction with other charities and the authorities.
We have managed to urgently relinquish 4 equines: 3 horses and a pony. This has been a first in history, and we hope this is a turning point so we can change things for the better from now on.
We would like to thank the local and regional authorities, who helped promptly and with much dedication every time they were asked to. We also want to thank the local vets that had been recruited for the event, and every single one of you who, in one way or another, contribute to our vital cause. We wish to generate a change in mentality so this things can be just a bad dream from long ago.
We’ll continue our fight for animal welfare; it is our mission, we are proud of it, and we will get there in the end.