It has become an unavoidable event for all the people who, anywhere in Spain, consider hunting a cruel, unnecessary activity and responsible for some of the worst atrocities suffered by animals. For the eleventh consecutive year, the NAC Platform (No A la Caza), formed by more than 200 associations from all over the State, calls for demonstrations in the main Spanish cities to demand an end to hunting and the exploitation of dogs for this purpose. The complete list of cities that have joined the call, more than 40, can be consulted at this linknext to the routes that the different marches will follow.
The choice of the first weekend of February to call the protest is not accidental. This month concludes the greyhound hunting season, one of the dog breeds that suffers the most from the consequences of this activity. During these days the abandonment of these dogs multiplies in the areas of the country where hare hunting is practiced, mainly Extremadura, Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha. Thousands of these dogs end up in shelters, looking for a family that wants to give them a second chance. That, in the best of cases: many others will end up thrown into a well, hanged or shot in the head.
In the same way, the demonstrations take place with an eye on the promised Animal Welfare Law, whose objective is to shield the minimum rights of domestic animals: to life, to maintain their living conditions with dignity and not to be considered objects. Some minimums that, according to the NAC Platform, from the hunting sector refuse to comply, pressing for the dogs used in hunting to be excluded from this consideration.
The drama of abandonment
In this sense, the data is conclusive: according to the Affinity Foundation, in 2019, 183,100 dogs were rescued by the protectors, 70% of them being dogs used for hunting. In total, more than 128,000 are abandoned each year. And it’s not just about greyhounds: breeds such as the podenco, the pointer, the setter or the spaniel suffer similar fates. The reason must be sought in various causes: they can be considered invalid because they are slow or lack the desired qualities; they may be unwanted puppies or animals that are too old; or, simply, they may not be good for hunting. After all, for hunters they are nothing more than a mere tool.
“We ask for the prohibition of hunting with dogs and that the Animal Welfare Law be approved with extreme urgency so that, finally, all dogs have their rights and protection. Also so that the law prevents the massive breeding, abandonment, sale and wild exploitation of these animals and, in particular, of dogs destined for hunting”, explains David Rubio, spokesman for NAC. “This is a necessary law and longed for by the majority of Spanish society, which is increasingly against animal abuse.”
The victims of the bullets are in a much greater number than the dogs. Every year around 30 million animals are killed throughout the Spanish State. Hunting is also a serious threat to humans: according to the Civil Guard, in the last 14 years there have been at least 63 deaths and 483 injuries, without taking into account data from Catalonia and the Basque Country. It is not just about hunters: hikers, cyclists or mushroom pickers are among the people who suffer the constant threat of hunters, who make practically the entire Spanish territory their private preserve, despite being less than 1.4% of the population.
The data seem to point in a clear direction: the rejection of hunting is the majority in Spanish society. This is confirmed by a recent study by the BBVA Foundation, which shows that the majority (9 out of 10 people surveyed) believe that animals feel pain, fear and emotions similar to those of humans. Something that shows a broad support for the possibility of stopping considering other animals ‘things’ and that also shows a deep rejection of sport hunting (with an average of 1.7 support out of 10).
The hunters, for their part, put forward very different arguments. Also studies that show other conclusions. This is the case of the survey carried out by GAD3 during the past months of April and May 2021, and whose conclusions were published in the main media. Under the name of ‘Opinions and attitudes of Spanish society towards hunting’, 3,000 telephone interviews were carried out. The conclusions: more than half of the Spaniards (54%) considered that hunting is a necessary activity. And 71% assured that hunting is “a good tool for animal population control.”
The study had two serious shortcomings, to detect which it was necessary to read between the lines: most of the telephone interviews were carried out in three autonomous communities (Castilla-La Mancha, Andalucía and Madrid), which coincide with those with a greater presence of hunters . Secondly, and even more importantly, the study was commissioned and paid for by the Artemisan Foundation, a lobby formed by Hunter Federations from all over Spain, owners of private preserves, companies related to hunting activity and private enthusiasts.
an armed minority
The use of the word lobby is not accidental: in Spain, the hunters hold immense power. 87% of the country’s surface is part of some hunting reserve, a percentage that has increased by 12% in the last decade. Spain is the second European country in number of licenses, with 743,600, only surpassed by France. A number that translates into the fact that within our borders there are almost 3 million legal weapons (75% of them shotguns), which is equivalent to 1 for every 16 inhabitants. All this translates into money: the hunting sector moves more than 6,500 million euros each year and generates some 200,000 jobs, according to the study ‘Economic and social impact of hunting in Spain’, prepared by Deloitte and the aforementioned Artemisan Foundation .
Faced with the power of money, the response of the people. From NAC the population is called to participate en masse in the calls for this Sunday. “We must go to ask the Government to put measures in place to tackle the serious problem of mistreatment and abandonment of these dogs destined for hunting in Spain,” says David Rubio. “Society has been asking for it for many years, and it is time for politicians to be brave and not give in to the pressure of the hunters.” Looking ahead, David is optimistic. “The end of the hunt is near. It is an increasingly residual practice that generates great rejection among the population”. A rejection that, this Sunday, will be shown on the streets again.