This week four small dead foxes have appeared and piled up in a ditch in the municipality of Teo, a neighbor of Santiago de Compostela.
It seems evident that whoever killed them did so furtively, without notifying the Xunta de Galicia and outside of any of the five authorized championships that between January and February extend the pressure on these mammals beyond the small game hunting season, which ended on the day of Kings.
These corpses abandoned anywhere do not exist for the Administration, which, however, does an annual count of all the specimens reported by the Galician hunting associations, an average of 15,000 foxes killed per year, according to the General Directorate of Natural Heritage of the Department of the Environment.
The figure was far exceeded before the pandemic, with more than 17,000 foxes killed in the 2018-2019 season.
The data of the last campaign are not yet known.
The official statistics, revealed this week by the Xunta to the Franz Weber Foundation (FFW), exceed by several thousand the estimates that the animal rights group had been making periodically.
The data was requested by his spokesman in the autonomous community, Rubén Pérez Sueiras, who explains that he ended up asking the Valedora do Pobo (Galician Ombudsman) for protection due to the delay in the government's response.
“There are no real balances of the fox population to authorize the animals that can be hunted per year.
The Xunta trusts the hunters: it makes estimates based on the data of sightings and inventories carried out by each Tecor [Cinegetically Ordered Land] provided by the
itself ”, warns Pérez Sueiras.
"We have spent years denouncing that there is no scientific basis for this barbarity of hunted animals," he protests.
Dogs at the center of controversy: protect hunting or animals
Another natural defense group, Ecoloxistas en Acción, asked the Prosecutor's Office in January to open investigative proceedings "for an alleged crime against the environment" for what it defines as the "massacre" of the fox in Galicia, with an average of "one 33.56% of animals killed each season”, “more than a third”, of the total population that is calculated.
Antón Arrojo Reguera, biologist, hunter and official spokesperson for the Galician Hunting Federation (FGC), explains that the championships are authorized, after the annual campaign, "to fill the quotas" allowed in those
that did not reach the figure.
"It's about liquidating the
," Pérez Sueiras ditch.
Hunting, after football
That of the hunters, with four provincial headquarters and an autonomous one in the Santiago football stadium, is the sports federation in Galicia with the most members after football.
"We have 20,300 federated members, that is, we represent 60% of the hunters" who go out into the mountains in the autonomous community, "and we are as thriving as the wine sector for the community," the spokesman stressed.
"In each municipality [in Galicia there are 313] there are one or two hunting societies, in some, three, and all of them invest tens of thousands of euros annually to manage and maintain the natural environment," he claims.
“Ours is a sustainable use, as wood can be.
The catch quota is approved by technicians from the Xunta, people who are studying a career for that”, Arrojo continues to defend.
"Giving a total count of hunted foxes is like saying that 100,000 pigs are killed... in one day it's a lot, but if they tell you it's in 10 years it's not such a nonsense," compares the same source.
“This is a sterile polemic: hunting yes, hunting no.
I can be from Madrid or I can be from Barça... but the pressure on the fox is much less than on the wild boar," says the FGC spokesman.
"In fact, the fox is benefiting from the fact that the hunters are busy controlling the wild boar, that if it weren't for us, more than half of the farmers would have to abandon their activity," he says, adding: "But of course, the Ecologists do not speak of the wild boar, but of the fox, because it is very beautiful”.
Fox skins displayed at the Thusis market (Switzerland) in 2018. GIAN EHRENZELLER (EFE)
The dates of the provincial fox hunting competitions and the regional cup are not indicated in the calendar on the FGC website.
The collective says it does not want "unfair boycotts" of animal rights, although it is not always able to avoid them.
In one of the four provincial tests held last January, the one in Pontevedra, groups defending the life of animals "went behind two gangs of hunters whistling at them and playing drums to scare away the foxes," Arrojo describes.
"When this happens, we have to unload the weapon, raise the hunt and change the area", in addition to "calling the Civil Guard", he complains.
"If they want to settle this eternal debate, they should go to court... we respect the decision to go to the Prosecutor's Office, the Supreme Court or Brussels, and we don't even care if they demonstrate,
The FGC spokesman does not reveal the date of the regional test either, but comments that it is scheduled "for February", with the participation of 16 crews, the four best classified in each province.
Lamela, Salnés 2, Fradiz and Os do Furancho are the names of the teams that have won in these four events, subsidized by the Xunta's General Secretariat for O Deporte.
During the competition day, according to Arrojo Reguera, a judge accompanies each crew and scores various aspects such as "the dog's work or, every time it is fired, the pod is picked up from the ground."
At the end, and after "a fur company" takes away these deceased with valuable fur, the hunting festival ends with a "fellowship meal" because "in Galicia hunting is a way of sharing;
it has a strong social character”, extols the spokesperson.
“That is something that also worries us”, indicates Rubén Pérez: “Hunting days begin in the bar and end in the bar and they are people who carry weapons... Why don't they do breathalyzer tests on the gunmen? ”.
Ecoloxistas en Acción points out that, although the pursuit of the fox is governed by the regulations for small game hunting, in competitions the beaten modality is practiced, "considered big game by current law."
According to the data put on the table by the Galician prosecutor's office, this group, "the census estimated by the Xunta" in May 2022, "after the pandemic in which hunting activities were reduced and there were no competitions", was 46,863 foxes.
"Before the pandemic, in the 2019-20 season, there would certainly be less," says the environmental group.
That exercise, according to the tables now delivered by the Environment to FFW, 15,728 specimens were exterminated with permission from the Xunta (and 65 fell in the championships), almost half of them in Lugo, the province with the most weight in hunting societies .
“National Vermin Board”
"Possibly these numbers are lower than the real ones," warns Ecoloxistas en Acción, because the
that request it do not have to include "foxes hunted for damage" in the catches.
Some havoc in pens that, on the other hand, the FFW representative comments, are "difficult to demonstrate if it is not with a camera trap, because it is very likely that the one who killed the hen was a mink" of those that in Galicia they live in the wild, “escaped from fur farms”.
"The fox is always put in the bag of the
national board of vermin
to have arguments to kill him”, he laments.
The FGC spokesman does not deny that the attacks by other animals end up being paid for by the foxes, but he brandishes another reason in favor of controlling the species: "There is a lot of scabies, and hunting reduces the impact of the disease."
According to the federation, the trophies are attended by "a veterinary team from the University of Santiago that takes samples" of the killed animals "to analyze tissue, blood and parasites."
Fox, protagonist of the PACMA campaign against hunting.PACMA26/01/2023PACMA (PACMA)
"Hunters assume an almost divine role as managers of the environment," criticizes Pérez Sueiras, but "at the level of social image, the killing of foxes, for simple leisure, is the worst."
His group proposed in a statement in January to “prohibit” this activity “in line with what Luxembourg did in 2015″, a measure “with excellent results”, he points out: “The population of this mammal has been stabilized and there has been a decrease in diseases such as fox tapeworm.
This newspaper has asked about the quotas, the championships and the censuses to the Environment of the Xunta, but has not had an answer.
“The pressure on the fox is very high because it is hunted in all areas without even respecting the restricted areas;
because it can be hunted for damage even in the reproductive season;
because you can hunt young and females followed by young because it is considered a species of small game, using modalities and ammunition of large and small game”, warns Ecoloxistas en Acción.
The group recalls that hunting societies and related companies are in charge of "sowing" the mountains with partridges and rabbits bred in captivity and "affecting the natural balance", because this easy food, from animals not prepared for wildlife, contributes to increase the reproduction of foxes.
"Thus, hunters justify the hunting" of these small predators, and "they are responsible for the fact that the life expectancy of a fox is only about three years."
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