Despite fears that it may criminalize dog hunting from Urban and Rural divisions, a draught bill intended to strengthen animal rights in Spain is revealing fissures within the Socialist Party’s electoral base.
With intentions to outlaw the selling of pets in retail establishments, transform zoos into wildlife rescue facilities and impose prison terms on abusers, the proposed law would completely restructure how domesticated and wild animals are treated in captivity.
However, a backlash in rural divisions, which have historically represented a significant support base ahead of elections at the end of this year, pushed Spain’s ruling Socialist party, which initiated the draught in 2022, to back down last month.
Sections of the measure intended to reduce the number of abandoned animals, according to the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation, which represents 337,000 hunters, would essentially forbid hunting through legislation.
In December, the Socialists disobeyed their coalition partner, the far-left Podemos, and submitted a last-minute amendment to exclude hunting dogs and other animals used in traditional rural activities out of concern that the issue might sway rural voters toward right-leaning parties in a general election later this year.
Dogs are employed in Spain to locate or capture prey such as deer, wild boar, and rabbits. According to Deloitte statistics, the hunting business generates more than 5 billion euros ($5.42 billion) in economic activity annually.
Begoa Nasarre, a Socialist legislator and the mayor of a hamlet in northern Spain, remarked in a committee meeting of parliament, “We care a lot about the countryside, we understand hunting.” “We want to enact laws for all people.”
Supporters of the law claim that rural divisions are where dogs are abandoned the most. According to the Affinity Foundation, a non-governmental organization with offices in Barcelona, some 167,000 dogs were abandoned in Spain in 2021, much of them after the end of the hunting season.
The modification, according to Rocio Arrabal, 36, head of a rescue group in southern Spain, “is a major step backward.” The pro-hunting lobby is more influential than us.
Rural divisions have historically been a stronghold for Spain’s socialists. According to official electoral records, they have won the majority of votes in towns and villages with fewer than 2,000 residents, alongside their longtime adversary, the People’s Party.
However, Podemos must contend with Socialists for the support of urban voters who lean left and care about animal welfare.
To pass legislation in parliament, the party of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez needs the support of Podemos, a minor coalition partner, as well as Catalan and Basque nationalist groups.
A Podemos staffer who worked on the legislation, Sergio Garcia Torres, demanded that Socialists withdraw the change since the exclusion of working animals renders it ineffective at addressing the underlying reasons for animal abandonment.
According to Garcia Torres, “We anticipate the Socialist party returning to the consensus.” If hunting dogs are not included, there is no assurance that the measure will receive approval from the legislature.
The failure to comprehend the function hunting plays in the countryside, according to Jose Maria Mancheo, president of the Federation of hunting clubs in Andalusia, a region in southern Spain, shows how certain Socialists have changed into a more urban force.
While a Socialist in Madrid might not view it as usual, he said, “Socialists in my village perceive it as normal for me to go hunting on Sunday.”
TOO DIFFICULT TO COMPLY
The proposed law would require dog owners to train their canines to behave around other animals. Additionally, it mandates that owners obtain licenses before breeding animals, a requirement that, according to dog breeders and hunters, would be nearly impossible for them to meet.
The primary veterinary group in Spain claimed that the proposed legislation places too many demands on pet owners, such as prohibiting euthanasia when palliative care is an option.
According to the current situation, it is simpler to put a person to death than an animal, the association president, Maria Luisa Fernandez.
Greyhound Daisy’s owner, Pablo Salido, expressed concern that her days as a hare courser may be gone if the ban extends to farm animals.
At a competition on a field in Castilla La Mancha, central Spain, in December, a farmer remarked, “They just want to limit and ban, without knowing what they are talking about.”