Jaen’s Turkey Tossers convene for peculiar annual ritual

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SPAIN celebrates the patron saint of throat ailments, children and animals on February 3, with processions and other events for St. Blaise (San Blas) held nationwide. 

As part of those celebrations, locals gather for a controversial fiesta in the Spanish city of Cazalilla, Jaen Province, to take part in the throwing of a live turkey from the 60-foot high belfry of Santa Maria Magdalena Church.

A deeply rooted tradition, Lanza la Pava (“throwing of the turkey”) is not supported by the local council and flies in the face of a 2003 law banning the custom. Participants can even be fined up to €2001 for their involvement, but still they turn up in droves from nearby towns including Villanueva de la Reina, Mengibar and Espeluy. 

In advance of the 2016 festivities, nearly 30,000 people have petitioned against the customary cruelty, while Spain´s animal welfare party PACMA have appealed to the local Bishop to forbid the unconventional use of the church. 

A spokesperson for the PACMA declared the annual bash to be “animal abuse” and “totally against the law”, while defenders of the tradition, which originated in the late nineteenth century, deny that the animal suffers as it is launched, legs tied, off the rooftops, and claim that the lucky person who catches the falling bird, can look forward to good fortune and a turkey for a house pet, or the oven. 

Planning for this year´s Turkey-flinging escapades has seen the city´s new major suggesting that the live fowl is replaced by a stuffed equivalent. 

At 5pm on the day of the event, festival-goers will find out whether the mayor´s animal-friendly proposal has come to pass. 

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