Controversy around Minnesota's first 'Running of the Bulls'

ELK RIVER, Minn. - A version of Spain's Running of the Bulls takes place in Elk River this weekend. Concerns over animal welfare and safety of participants has some groups seeing red.

More than 2,000 people are signed up for the chance to run with nearly 20 bulls Saturday at the Extreme Motor Park off of Highway 169. In the event, runners sprint a quarter of a mile with live bulls. They can jump over fences to escape along the course.

Rob Dickens is the co-founder of The Great Bull Run and started the event last summer when he couldn't go to the famed bull run in Pamplona, Spain.

"So I started to realize there must be hundreds of thousands of people here in the U.S. who wanted to go but can't get the time off work to do it," said Dickens.

As a former Wall Street attorney, Dickens was quickly able to address the liability of such an event. Each participant must sign a waiver that the company is not responsible for injuries.

"This is not a safe event by any stretch of the imagination. You get out there and there is eighteen, 1500 pound bulls running with you and 600 other people. It's a very chaotic environment so it's really up to yourself to make sure you get out of there unscathed," said Dickens. "It is a very dangerous event. We have had broken bones, concussions, contusions bruises, things of that nature, but, no fatalities."

Initially, the running of the bulls was scheduled to take place at Canterbury Downs until officials in Shakopee decided against the risk.

Dickens said participants are drawn to the event for the opportunity to face "real danger" head on. He said the majority of thrill seekers are male, but events usually have 30 percent female participation.

Melissa Faulkner, of Minneapolis, is new to Minnesota and signed up after the encouragement from a friend.

"I think it was being new in the city, branching out and wanting to do something new and different," said Faulkner. "I think it was so unique and different and I probably won't be going to Spain anytime soon so this will be the closest I will come to actually running with the bulls."

The event has been held at seven different places nationwide since August 2013, and in each stop, has also run into opposition. PETA launched an online petition to stop the bull run. In Minnesota, the Animal Rights Coalition has also voiced concerns about the bulls being prodded to run by horses in an unnatural environment.

"The human beings who are participating in this event are choosing to do so, and the animals are doing so without any choice, said Dallas Rising, the Animal Rights Coalition Executive Director. "They are running in the midst of loud, frantic excited people in all directions. The people again are signing up for this, knowing they are in it for a thrill and taking a risk with their bodies to participate, the bulls don't have a choice again and it's dangerous for them as well."

Dickens said the bulls are trained to run in the environment after several shows nationwide, and only are used monthly.

"So the bulls live in a big 800 acre ranch in Kentucky, they are not housed in little cages. They perform for us and then are back on the ranch living a happy life," said Dickens.

He points out the greater risk is to the people that sign up.

"That danger and the willingness to test that danger that brings them here," said Dickens.

The event also features the "Tomato Royale," which is a giant tomato fight inspired by another Spanish festival.

The cost to participate in the bull run is between $60-$75.

Learn more here.


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