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HUNTING

Are Spain’s hunters becoming extinct?

Spain’s hunting associations have lost 90,000 licensees in the past decade, leading experts to suggest that the shooting practise is dying out in a country with a lingering reputation for animal cruelty.

Are Spain's hunters becoming extinct?
Photo: AFP

At the current rate, hunting in Spain could become obsolete in the next four decades.

That’s according to the most recent stats by the country’s High Council for Sports, its latest brief on licensed hunters in Spain pointing to a drop of more than 100,000 in the past eleven years, more than a quarter of the total.

The fall is even higher according to figures published by the Spanish Agricultural Ministry’s Forestry branch – a drop of 156,000 from 2006 to 2016 – although this could be caused by a doubling up of the numbers due to hunters having licenses for different autonomous communities.

Nevertheless experts agree that there’s a downward trend that’s likely to continue unhinged.

“The main and practically only reason is ageing among Spain’s hunting population and the lack of a generational relay of the practice,” vice-president of Spain’s Hunting Federation Ignacio Valle told national daily Público.

“People are leaving the Spanish countryside and moving to the cities or overseas in greater number, which means the animals’ habitat isn’t cared for, hence why we’re seeing more rabbits and pheasants in Madrid and Barcelona,” argues Óscar Beltrán, head of Spain’s National Hunting Office.

Luis Fernando Villanueva, president of Spain’s Rural Properties Association (APROCA) told El País that the country’s younger generation nowadays see hunters as “reviled” figures of society.

“Young people have other interests now; most of us who were the sons of hunters would accompany our fathers on hunts, that’s something that’s disappearing now.”

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Other experts also underline that increasing obstacles in obtaining a weapon’s permit ( including the need to pass a psychotechnical test) is another reason why the numbers appear to be dropping. 

Despite the change in perceptions towards hunting, the practie was still the third ‘sport’ in Spain with the most licensed members in 2017, behind only football and basketball.

According to Spain’s High Council for Sports, there were still 328,677 licenced hunters at the end of 2017.

Hunting has also recently become a political hook for far-right newcomers Vox, who accuse the ruling socialists and left-wing Unidos Podemos of trying to outlaw a tradition they say is as quintessentially Spanish as bullfighting.

The truth is that for much of Spain’s youngest generation of progressive thinkers, hunting – much like other centuries-old activities and festivals centred around animal cruelty – the practice should be banned and swept under the carpet.

A 2017 poll by El País focusing just on bullfighting and bull running found that 60 percent of Spaniards would prefer the two to be outlawed. However in a 2018 YouGov poll the margin was tighter at 52 percent.

All matters considered the debate over a ban on hunting in Spain may not be necessary if member numbers continue to fall due to the country’s rural depopulation and general disinterest in the so-called sport.

SEE ALSO: Hunter kills two forest rangers when asked for gun licence in Catalonia

ANIMAL CRUELTY

‘Gratuitous cruelty’: Spain probes suspected abuse at animal testing lab

Spanish police and prosecutors said Monday they were investigating an animal testing lab after undercover footage showed staff there tossing around, smacking and taunting dogs, pigs and other animals.

'Gratuitous cruelty': Spain probes suspected abuse at animal testing lab
Handout: Cruelty Free International

“We were dismayed to see the images,” the head of the government’s directorate-general for animal protection, Sergio Garcia Torres, told AFP.

“It is a blatant case of animal abuse.”

Footage published Thursday by Cruelty Free International shows appears to show animals at the Vivotecnia animal testing facility being cut into apparently without having received anaesthetics.

Staff were also filmed swinging dogs and rats around and in one clip someone is drawing a face on a monkey’s genitals as the animal is pinned to a table.

The group said the footage was taken by a whistleblower who worked at the facility, which is on the outskirts of Madrid, between 2018 and 2020.

“There can be no doubt that such gratuitous cruelty causes unnecessary distress and suffering,” the animal rights group said in a statement.

“It is also unlawful.”

Police and public prosecutors said Monday they had opened separate investigations into Vivotecnia, which carries out experiments on animals for the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries.

The company’s phone number was no longer working on Monday and its web site was down for maintenance.

In a statement cited by Spanish media, Vivotecnia chief executive Andres Konig said he was “shocked” at the images. But, he added, they did not “demonstrate the day-to-day reality at Vivotecnia”.

Following the outcry caused by the release of the footage, the Madrid regional government on Sunday temporarily halted activity at the animal testing facility.

Animal rights political party PACMA has filed a lawsuit against the managers of the company and urged the government to step up its supervision of animal testing.

“It’s a very opaque world and it could be that this is happening regularly without us knowing,” PACMA president Laura Duarte told AFP.

The Vivotecnia laboratory animals were examined by veterinarians and are being moved to other facilities.

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