Italian minister: Palio horse races are cruel, time to ban them like
ROME - Italy's tourism minister has called for an
end to the nation's popular Palio horse races, likening them to Spain's
bullfights for exploiting animals.
Michela Brambilla's criticism of
the centuries-old tradition was immediately criticized by other politicians,
including the mayor of Siena. The graceful Tuscan town draws tens of
thousands of visitors each summer with the races running at breakneck speed
in the main square.
Horses have been injured and euthanized after
slipping on the dirt-covered cobblestone track.
Brambilla says Italy
could take a lesson from Spain, where the Catalonia region last month banned
bullfights and their blood-soaked pageantry.
Animal rights activists
in Italy praised Brambilla, but Palio is a big tourist draw.
Italy minister: Palio races cruel to horse
The city of Siena's famed bareback horse race, the Palio, is a
big tourist draw in Tuscany, but Italy's tourism minister said it
amounts to cruelty to animals and suggested it's time to end the
centuries-old spectacles. Minister Michela Brambilla, appointed
by Premier Silvio Berlusconi to promote Italy, blasted such
generally cherished traditions at a news conference in Rome on
Her suggestion immediately irked prominent members
of Berlusconi's conservative coalition, already frayed by weeks of
political squabbling, and several hours later she issued a
statement insisting that she hadn't demanded the Palio to be
At the news conference, Brambilla praised the Spanish
region of Catalonia for banning bullfights last month and said it
was time for Italy to review its own pageantry that might exploit
Siena draws tens of thousands of visitors each
summer with runnings of the Palio race at breakneck speed when jockeys,
sporting colorful medieval symbols of 17 fiercely competitive
neighborhoods, whip their mounts around a dirt-covered oval track
converted from the main cobblestone square. Falls by horses
aren't rare, and sometimes the animals have had to be killed
because of their injuries.
'If Catalonia has given up the 'corrida'
(bullfights), we could can give up some Palio' races, Brambilla
She lamented that several towns have
traditions she said exploit horses, donkeys and other animals, and ventured
that Italy would benefit from what she called an 'animal
On Thursday night, Sky TG 24 TV, which had
broadcast her remarks, reported that the minister later issued a
statement saying she hadn't specifically called for the Palio's
No one answered the phone at the Tourism Ministry
on Thursday night. Siena's mayor, Maurizio Cenni, called Brambilla's
remarks 'incredible' and a 'shame' for Italy.
from the opposition left, but Berlusconi's own conservative
allies quickly mounted a protest. Sen. Gianvittore Vaccari said he was
'surprised and perplexed' by the tourism minister's remarks, and
Berlusconi's senate whip, Maurizio Gasparri, praised the Palio as an
expression of 'healthy popular culture,' the Italian news agency
The hotly contested race is no stranger to
Pro-animal lobbies, which have long called for an
end to the Palio, rushed to praise Bambilla. And last month, on the
eve of the Palio's first running this summer, right-wing groups
condemned this year's official banner for
featuring Islamic, Jewish and Christian symbols.