Animal rights campaigners in Spain held demonstrations across multiple cities on October 16 to shine a light on hunting dogs being exempt from new animal welfare laws.
The Spanish government recently lodged a further amendment to its Animal Protection Law, which sought to keep hunting dog breeds exempt from abuse protection.
Barcelona-based animal rights group Paw Portal called the move “a shame,” considering this is the same government that made so many positive steps to help animals previously.
“Do dogs feel less if they are in the hands of hunters than in the hands of people who do not have killing animals as a hobby?” the group asked in a Facebook post. “Indeed: they feel less affection, less attention and less respect.”
Protests were organized in Almeria, Cadiz, and Valencia, amongst others, to encourage people to sign a petition launched by Spanish political party the Animalist Party Against Mistreatment of Animals.
Paw Portal supported efforts and informed its followers about the underlying issues of speciesism and cruelty. “[This is] a reminder that the Spanish government wants to exclude hunting dog breeds from the new animal rights laws,” it wrote.
“This will allow the biggest perpetrators of the worst animal abuse to continue without facing any consequences!”
Abuse faced by working dogs
Paw Portal claims that dogs used to hunt are kept in abhorrent conditions. Many are reported to be kept on short chains for the majority of their lives, while housed in unsanitary feces-filled kennels, and denied access to clean drinking water.
At the end of hunting season, due to the undomesticated nature of the animals, thousands face abandonment or death at the hands of their owners. Hanging, burning, and being discarded into wells to drown are listed as some common “disposal” techniques.
Under the Animal Protection Law, all of these activities would be deemed illegal and punishable by a prison sentence. However, the government is looking to remove all protection from hunting breeds, apparently on the grounds of “cultural interest.”
In its petition, the Animalist Party states that: “This was [also] denounced by the Intergroup of the European Parliament on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals in a letter sent to the Government, in which it indicated that the treatment given in our country to animals used as hunting tools is in contradiction with European values.”
The party demands that no species is exempt from protection by the law. It also asks that none be used as “tools” for human profit, as it equates to exploitation, a term it also connects to another Spanish tradition, bull fighting.
Spain cracks down on animal abuse
On August 1, the Spanish government updated its Animal Protection Law to reduce cruelty, abandonment, and the unnecessary killing of animals. The amendment was brought in by the minister of social rights, Ione Belarra.
“Animal abuse going unpunished and aberrant practices such as cockfighting or shooting pigeons are over,” she said at the time. “Gone are the days when hundreds of thousands of animals were abandoned every year in our country.”
Murcia Today reported that key changes included a zero sacrifice policy, with no animal being euthanized except for in extreme medical circumstances, and a tougher stance on perpetrators of animal abuse. The Penal Code was changed to increase custodial sentences from a minimum of 24 to 36 months for first offenses.
Zoos and marine parks are also required to transform into wildlife rehabilitation centers.
Following on from the amendments, more animal rights progress was made in December when animals became classified as sentient beings in Spain. Only the far-right political party Vox opposed the move, which saw domestic companions and wild species alike no longer considered as “objects” by law.