Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable

Coming in to Huntingdon, past Samuel Pepys place, alongside Hinchingbrooke I was amazed by the number of bunnies hopping around. Millions of the little blighters. Where we live now is much more rural than Huntingdon but I see far less wildlife. Rabbits and more particularly hares are our most frequent sighting but I'm talking one at a time not hordes of them. Lots of people tell us stories of wild boar and one pal was even attacked by one. I've only ever seen them on a game reserve in Andalucia. Although I know foxes, badgers, snakes, hedgehogs, squirrels, mice, stoats and the like are all there I hardly ever see them except as road kill. We have plenty of birds too but I don't see the soaring birds of prey that were so common in Salamanca or the game birds that were always attempting to commit hari kari under the wheels of my car in the wilds of Cambridgeshire.

Hunting though is enormous in Spain. Some weekends, presumably as hunting season opens on some poor species, the sounds of rifles and shotguns in the hills behind our house is more or less non stop. I know lots of dog owners who complain that their dogs cannot be taken off the lead because they are soon challenged by some angry farmer keen to protect nesting game birds or whatever and so protect their sales of hunting licences. Searching in Google for some information I needed for this post I found hundreds of websites offering hunting holidays particularly for big animals. There were, to me, some really sickening pictures of what seemed to be a succession of overweight red faced blokes with the regulation beige waistcoat grinning from ear to ear as they tugged on the horns of some glassy eyed beast.

Just at the bottom of our track there is a rectangular metal sign divided into black and white triangles by a diagonal line. For years I've known that these signs mark the boundary of a hunting area but that was the limit of my knowledge. The other day, when we were walking by one of the larger signs I noticed, for the first time, that it had a little metal tag attached a bit like the old chassis numbers on cars. I wondered what it was so I asked Google and hence this post. The tag plate apparently refers to the local government licence held by the owners of the hunting rights.

It seems there are all sorts of hunting licences available. For instance there is one called coto social de caza, social hunting grounds, which are not singles clubs but places which are designed  for poorer hunters who can't afford the cost of joining a hunting club with high fees. The licences to hunt are allocated to small groups by ballot and hunting is only allowed in these areas on Sundays and holidays. Cotos locales seem to be hunting grounds operated by farmers associations or other community groups and there are cotos privados too which are private hunting land reserved for members. Fortunately for the beasts, there are a range of areas where some species at least are protected or they are protected under certain circumstances. To be honest I got really bored reading the various rules and regulations and decided to stick with less accurate generalisation.

Those black and white signs are there to warn people. Legislation seems to vary from community to community but basically you have to put up a bigger sign which says what sort of hunting area it is and then smaller repeating signs. The big signs have to be at any obvious access point to hunting land and never more than 600 metres apart whilst the smaller signs have to be repeated at least every 100 metres. The idea is that, standing in front of one of them, you should be able to see the next sign in either direction. The repeating signs can also be painted onto handy things like rock crop outs or fence posts as long as the letters are greater than a specified size.

One thing that struck me, as I waded through the legalese of the placement of these signs, was that, as well as the signs for hunting areas, there were several to control hunting in one form or another. Whilst I realise that anywhere that doesn't have a hunting sign is, by default, a safe place for the wildlife it struck me how few of the reserve type signs I've seen. On the other hand I've seen thousands of the black and white triangle signs that give people the right to exercise their blood lust.

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