Wednesday, July 6

Pigeon shooting: cruelty outside the law

Polina and Serafina are two Ukrainian girls who, last March, arrived as refugees in the Andalusian city of Granada. There they were welcomed by Macarena, who carefully prepared her room to welcome them and make them feel at home. However, just 24 hours before receiving them, she was involved in a controversy that was even transferred to the pages of the main local newspapers: in the house the shots coming from the Royal Pigeon Shooting Society of Granada are heard incessantly, located a few meters. “Please, let’s not receive two refugee girls from the war with gunshots,” she implored the one responsible for her.

The anecdote rained down a barrage of comments on the social networks of the different media that echoed the news. Almost all of them went in the same direction. “Some only speak out when cruelty goes against people, even indirectly,” said a reader of the newspaper Ideal on Facebook. “And if no children come, do you think it’s something nice?” another wondered. “Let them ban it forever!” asked a third.

shot on the fly

Pigeon shooting is recognized as a sport where a living target is shot down in a shooting range. There are two ways to release animals: by hand or mechanically. In the latter, the bird is introduced into a tube connected to a compressed air motor so that it is expelled at a speed of between 30 and 200 km/h and shot down before it can react and take flight. The worst part is not those who die on the spot, but those who are injured and fall to the ground and die in agony or are finished off with blows when the championship ends, in case they are still alive. The birds are bred in captivity and caged for life, dying without ever having flown.

This cruel practice continues to raise controversy throughout Spain. In some cases, its defenders hide behind the fact that it is a hunting modality, so it would be outside the animal protection laws. However, a sentence issued in Galicia in 2017, after the Xunta and the Government were sued for not giving authorization for pigeon shooting when its new animal protection law was in force, established that it is not a hunting activity. Other autonomous communities have been prohibiting pigeon shooting: the Canary Islands did so in 1991, Catalonia in 2003. Murcia, the Balearic Islands and Galicia did so in 2017 and La Rioja in 2018.

On the other hand, cases such as Andalusia, where an obsolete law that has not been renewed, or the Community of Madrid, where pigeon shooting continues in the face of fierce opposition from environmentalists and animal activists, stand out. Last October, Ecologists in Action denounced the slaughter of 20,000 pigeons for the celebration of the Fedecat Grand Prix and the SM El Rey-Somontes Cup, which took place at the Somontes Shooting Club. It was the last and bloodiest chapter of a fight that could have taken a turn in 2016. There was an opportunity to eradicate pigeon shooting when the Regional Assembly drafted a new animal protection law, 4/2016. But Ciudadanos, in a last-minute turnaround, backed down and betrayed Podemos and PSOE, with whom he had previously agreed on the vote.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Europe this form of hunting has been progressively prohibited in all countries throughout this last century. The last to do so has been the Parliament of Portugal, which in 2021 prohibited the use of live animals for the practice of sports shooting.

The situation in Euskadi

Pigeon shooting is currently in the Basque Country these days. There, the authorities are considering continuing to allow pigeon shooting in their new protection law, which will be updated shortly, which has led to this practice becoming relevant again. It so happens that in this autonomous community the cruelest modality is carried out, the so-called Colombaire Pigeon Shooting, in which the pigeon is introduced into a tube to be launched as described above. The Euskadi Hunting Federation promotes and organizes pigeon shooting championships, but not as hunting, since it is not, but as a sporting activity in shooting ranges.

There is the paradox that, if Euskadi’s hunting law were applied to pigeon shooting, the activity would be prohibited. Law 2/2011, of March 17, on hunting in the Basque Country establishes in its article 39 that “the use of any disturbing element to scare or direct game, such as pyrotechnic devices, horns, ostentatious signs waving, etc.”

The Basque PP has been one of the main defenders of this practice: it has asked the PNV not to prohibit it. “They exert a pressure that, together with that of the hunters, can cause pigeon shooting to remain in a community that presumes to be advanced,” denounces Ana Moreno, President of the association for the defense of animals HAIEKIN.

“The fallacy that the Euskadi Hunting Federation maintains is that it is a hunting activity, but as the sentence issued in Galicia has already made very clear, it is not,” explains Ana. “It is also necessary to clarify what the capture of wild animals, since the version of the pigeon shooting organizers varies according to the moment: sometimes they present the animals as birds born and bred in captivity; Others maintain that they use wild pigeons that live and reproduce freely in the natural environment and are captured and kept in cages until the start of the tournament. Well, according to article 74, sections b) and d) of Law 9/2021, of November 25, on the conservation of the natural heritage of the Basque Country, the possession and trade of wild species is prohibited, ”she recalls.

The president of HAIEKIN, like all animal rights defenders, is clear: “If the Basque Government finally allows this archaic and cruel event, it will be left behind in animal protection,” she warns. “We have been waiting for almost 30 years for a new animal protection law to finally become an animal exploitation law.”

“The Lisbon Treaty introduced in the EU Member States the obligation to implement comprehensive public policies in defense of animals on the basis that animals are sentient beings and not mere things”, recalls Ana Moreno. “But everything seems to indicate that the Basque Government will continue to be anchored in the darkest past in terms of animal protection to satisfy the whims and interests of a small sector of the Basque population. We cannot defend the rights of humans and ignore those of animals. As an advanced society we must eradicate aberrant practices settled in past times and condemn the animal suffering that surrounds us”, she concludes.