Pamplona bull-run festival launches with traditional fireworks

The controversial Pamplona bull-running festival in northern Spain was launched on Friday by traditional “Chupinazo”fireworks.
Thousands of people in traditional white shirts with red neckerchiefs in their hands gathered before the city hall in the centre of Pamplona to celebrate the start of the San Fermin festival, which US author Ernest Hemingway made famous in his novel “The Sun AlsoRises.”
Despite renewed protests by animal rights groups, the first bull-run is expected to take place on Saturday.
Some 100 activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals(PETA) and Anima Naturalis protested wearing bull masks in front of the same city hall on Thursday.
The protesters held up banners with the slogan “Stop Bullfights,” and lit flares that spread red smoke to symbolize the blood of the 20,000bulls slaughtered each year in Spain in bullfights.
The eight-day long San Fermin festival involves daily bull runs through the narrow streets of Pamplona to the arena for evening bullfights: Hundreds of men and a few women test their courage by trying to outrun the massive animals which sometimes weigh over 600kilograms.
Dozens are injured annually along the 875-metre route either by being trampled or gored or both, and there are occasional fatalities, the last one being in 2009. — dpa