Spain’s Council of Ministers drafted its new animal protection law on the 18th of February, dead set on suppressing the objectification of animals. Since then, the authoritarian scope of its intended “un-reifying” of animals has been coming into ever starker relief. It is poised to be subjected to Congressional debate soon.
There is likely a great deal that is valid in the proposal, and nobody denies the legitimacy of legislating against animal cruelty. However, it has already raised the ire of various groups, including hunting associations, who say its provisions would be untenable in the countryside.
Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the law is that all animals classified as pets, who may come into contact with members of their species belonging to the opposite sex, are to be sterilized, unless their owners have officially registered as animal breeders. This includes all dogs, even hunting dogs who live outdoors, as well as indoor pets who happen to share spaces with potential mates. In addition, any household owning more than five pets will have to register as a “zoological nucleus,” in which case additional regulations will apply.
Furthermore, no dog is to contribute to any professional activity before the age of eighteen months, with the age of retirement to be determined by a veterinarian, after which it is to be put up for adoption.
A recent protest in Madrid, drawing together farmers and rural associations of various kinds, articulated many of the fears surrounding this and related legislation. In particular, Manuel Gallardo, president of the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation (RFEC), noted that one cannot separate respect for an animal and its wellbeing from its function in a rural household or business: “A greyhound will always run after a hare and, if we cannot train it to do so, hunting will cease to exist, as we know it. Game animals aren’t pets.”
The RFEC’s technical director, Juan Herrara, commented that every major study done on the subject has concluded that certain animals must be trained between 8 and 14 months of age if they are to perform competently thereafter, whereas the proposed law would prohibit such training before the 18-month mark.
From a potentially massively expanded sterilisation rate, to new limitations on training and employing animals in a rural setting, including hunting dogs, many fear that this new legislation seeks to maximise animal emotional or sensory pleasure, ignoring the fulfilment of their instincts (often the result of centuries of breeding).