Hunters Protest

March 3, 2008

Tens of thousands of hunters marched through the centre of Madrid on Saturday to protest against new rules on hunting aimed at protecting the environment.
The new law places restrictions on where people can hunt and bans the use of lead buckshot in wetland areas, where it is believed to poison thousands of birds and other wildlife every year. Hunters dispute the figures and say not only will the switch to steel shot prove expensive, it will be more dangerous as, unlike lead shot, which flattens on impact, steel shot does not and could ricochet.

The more than 50,000 protesters, including farmers concerned about the loss of income from allowing hunters on to their land, shouted slogans and called for the resignation of Environment Minister Cristina Narbona.
 One angry hunter said the important thing about the demonstration was that it showed the hunting lobby was united in its cause. He said hunting was natural and far from harming the environment, actually helped to protect it, an argument not unlike that used by foxhunters in Britain.

Before Saturday’s demonstration, the Royal Palace confirmed that King Juan Carlos, himself a keen hunter, had shown a keen interest in the new law while it was being drafted.
Environmentalists have accused the King of trying to use his position to influence the law and help the hunting lobby. They also complain the law does not go far enough. Hunters however, see the measures as yet more government interference and regulation of their sport, saying the government has sold out to the “Environmental Taliban”.

Andrés Gutiérrez, the head of the Spanish Hunting Federation which organised the protest said: “We want the government to make clear the areas where lead shot is banned and to give us an assurance that the financial burden of the change will not be carried by the hunters.”