The residents said the cat that was burned in a container at the top of a flaming pole was only singed. This latest example of Portugal’s attitude to animal welfare was claimed by locals to be ‘traditional.’
The GNR has opened an investigation in Mourão concerning a filmed incident at which a crowd of onlookers stood watching flames rise up a pole until a container in which a cat was held crashed to the ground in a burst of sparks, releasing the animal which they ran around in circles.
Following several complaints sent to the GNR and to Vila Flor council in Bragança, criminal proceedings may be taken against persons as yet unknown.
The video was put on social media and already is being viewed across the world by people who are less than impressed at Portugal’s version of animal rights.
The event has been slammed by Grupo Gatos Urbanos, which also has announced that it will be making a formal criminal complaint to the Department of Investigation and Penal Action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Some locals, sensibly remaining anonymous, said to a reporter from Público that the cat burning has been a tradition "for many years" and the cat "is well and did not die."
The tradition on the Noite de São João involves locals placing a cat in a clay jar and hanging it on a pole clad in straw which then is set alight.
The fun, apparently, is in watching the string holding the jar burn and seeing the cat and container crash to the ground.
“The idea is not that the cat dies." "This time it went wrong because the string took longer to burn and the cat finally came out a little bit singed. But did not die," added one local, clearly wondering what all the fuss was about.
The wider public is not as sanguine and a petition has been set up to end the tradition of Mourão cat burning, or ‘Queima do Gato’ as they call it locally.
Recently the mistreatment of pet animals has become a criminal offence with a penalty of up to one year in prison or a fine. In the case of ill-treatment causing the death of the animal, those convicted can spend two years in jail.
Mourão hopefully is the only village which enjoys an annual cat burning and, according to locals, "there has never been problem until now."
The video, should you really want to watch it, is here:
The petition is here: