Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is personal view of Spain and Spanish life as seen by a Briton living in a small village in Alicante province.
The other tabs link to similar blogs when I have lived in other places. The TIM magazine is an English language magazine I write articles for.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Undressing and covering oneself in fake blood

I'm feeling a bit Sanjay Gandhi today - not because I've won a dodgy car building contract - but because I've been part of an enforced sterilization program. I didn't even offer a free portable radio.

Britons who live here are often very vocal in their complaints about how animals are treated in Spain. On a big scale the bullfights which kill horses and bulls in front of cheering crowds give them obvious ammunition. These sort of things no longer go unnoticed by lots of ordinary Spaniards either. Many Spanish people have no time for these hangovers from bear baiting times. Every time that the people of Tordesillas arm themselves with lances and sit astride their horses ready to cut down a bull they are harried by protestors. It's the same in Coria where the bull is peppered with little darts and then has his balls cut off. They no longer throw a live goat from the church tower in Manganeses de la Polvorosa to be caught in a fire fighter style blanket having bowed to public pressure. In Carpio del Tajo the they have not used live geese in their festival for over thirty years - nowadays the geese that they wrench the heads off, as they ride by on horses, are already well dead. Half naked protestors daubed with fake blood make it less comfortable for the bullfight crowds to get to their seats and so it goes on. Lots of the barbarism has been toned down but there are still plenty of spectacles which, at the very least, use the distress and suffering of animals as a form of supposed entertainment.

On a much smaller scale the expat rural Britons often have stories about puppies abandoned outside their homes, kittens thrown into rubbish bins and hunting dogs abandoned on the road when they are too old to keep up with the hares they are supposed to catch. Hunting, by your everyday Joe, is still very common in the countryside.Then of course there are, from time to time, stories in the British popular press about some donkey being terribly mistreated and most of us have a story about a horse, mule or dog tethered in the midday sun without shade or water.  On the other hand most Britons will add to that a story about other Britons who have abandoned dogs when they return to the UK as a reminder that Spaniards don't have the market cornered in mistreatment of animals.

Despite all of this apparent random cruelty there are lots of animal protection laws in Spain and they were recently beefed up which is probably why it's only in the recent past that people have started to be prosecuted. One of the reasons is that the perpetrators have made it impossible for the offence to be ignored. Post a video on YouTube or WhatsApp of setting fire to a cat and you can be pretty sure it will go viral. Shortly afterwards expect a house call from the Guardia. That was the case with a couple of twentyish year olds who had a whale of a time jumping on piglets and squashing and killing seventy of them in the process.

I remembered the piglet case from the news. There was another one about a bullfighter who had been mistreating a horse and as I Googled for the information I came across lots of newspaper articles along the line - "Guardia Civil shelves cruelty case", "Town Hall drops charges against man who arranged illegal dog fights" and so on. I wrote an article for the TIM magazine about catching song birds to eat and, there again, lots of the articles I read in my research talked about how the authorities turned a blind eye to illegal capture techniques. There is still an awful lot of acceptance of animal mistreatment in Spain though the idea that animals have no "rights" is far less prevalent than it once was.

Around here there are several animal rescue charities - lots are run by Britons. It's probably fair to say that dog rescue is the biggest area but I've been to both a horse and a primate rescue centre close by. Cats are often covered by the dog charities but Spanish thinking on cats is that, generally, they can take care of themselves. So whilst a loose dog will be hauled off to a charity for adoption or to the Town Hall dog pound nobody really takes much notice of the moggies unless they are being mistreated.

I may have mentioned that we took on a couple of cats recently. We got them from an association in Pinoso which is called Gatets sense llar del Pinós. The name is in the local Valencian language but it means something like Pinoso Kittens without a home.

Before we'd got the cats we had an occasional visitor to our garden, a big, mature, white, male cat. He was wary of us but semi approachable so we left out some dried cat food when we remembered. We hadn't seen him for a while but, as soon as we got the two rescue cats, he started to turn up regularly. There was a lot of screaming and bits of fur and cats refusing to come down from trees. The white cat even found a back way into the house so he could eat the food we'd left out for our two. We had a lot of fun with a hosepipe and I invested money in a water pistol. But Maggie had bigger plans. She borrowed a trap from Gatets; one can of Premium cat food and he was captured. And if you go back to the first sentence you will see who it was who got to take him to the vet where the castration was paid for by the local Town Hall via the Charity. I paid for the flea and parasite stuff though. He was obviously pretty sore and very wobbly as he came out of the carry box and made his way gingerly out of our garden.

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