Hunting in Spain, wandering in wildness and civilization

In early February of this year, the Spanish government initiated a process to include wild wolves on the national list of protected species. This means that Spain will ban wolf hunting in the future. Animal protectionists welcomed the government’s move, but the Spanish Royal Hunting Federation and some hunting enthusiasts believe that this may affect the country’s long-standing hunting culture.

Spanish knights love to hunt bison

Hunting is one of the oldest means of survival for mankind. Spanish archaeologists have discovered hunting scene murals in many caves in the country, some of which are more than 7,000 years ago. These murals are rich in content. Some depict the hunters capturing deer and goats, some depict scenes of humans stalking wild boars with spears, and others show scenes of humans fighting with bison.

Hunting was also an important entertainment and social activity for medieval Spanish knights. As professional soldiers, when these knights participated in the war, their main pastimes were mostly related to military skill training. Since hunting not only possesses the practicality of military training, but also meets the needs of the knights from material to spiritual and other aspects, they are particularly keen on this.

At the beginning of the 8th century, a large army of Muslims called the “Moors” crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from North Africa, and soon occupied most of Spain. At that time, the Spanish regime held the remaining turf in the north and launched a counterattack. No one thought that this battle would last for nearly 800 years. During this intermittent war called the “Land Recovery Movement” (711-1492), both the Moorish and Spanish soldiers had fun through hunting to obtain meat and exercise their combat capabilities.

Compared with meek herbivores such as deer, Spanish knights prefer fierce and more challenging opponents for more exciting experiences. The bison is one of the favorites of Spanish knights. Although bears or wild boars will fight back when they are pressed, most of them will choose to escape. The knights discovered that the Iberian wild bull is not only fit and strong, but also vigorous and brave. Rather than escape, they are more willing to choose to fight, and never back down until they die. For hunters, fighting with bison is no longer hunting, but a wild and enthusiastic collision and exchange, which is the purest expression of “meeting on a narrow road, the brave wins”. There is a speculation that the Spaniards like bullfighting is related to this. In addition, Spanish hunters have a tradition of hunting wild boars with spears on horses. For the Spaniards, for a long time in history, the only way they could catch a wild boar was to use a horse to drive it to the right place, and then immediately stab it to death with a spear. Many oil paintings depict this scene (pictured).

Hunting permit requires “annual inspection”

Hunting is a social and cultural heritage of Spain, and its falconry training has been included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List of Humanity. In terms of the number of participants, Spain’s hunting fans are second only to football and basketball fans, ranking third. In most parts of Spain, anyone who is 14 years old is eligible for hunting. In 2013, the Balearic Islands lowered this age to 8 years old, and eligible children can participate in hunting accompanied by adults. Although weapons cannot be used, children can use hunting dogs or set traps to catch prey. Children often beat rabbits with the help of hunting dogs. In addition, the Spaniards also set up nets to catch thrushes on rugged mountain roads.

In Spain, the threshold for hunting is relatively low. After obtaining a hunting license, a weapon holding license, and purchasing compulsory insurance, you can hunt in a limited area. If you are using “cold weapons” such as bows and arrows, you do not need a license for the weapon; but if you are using “hot weapons” such as firearms, you need to pass both theoretical and practical exams to obtain a license. After obtaining the permit, it needs to be reviewed regularly: people under 60 years old need to review once every 5 years; 60-70 years old every two years; over 70 years old need to be reviewed every year.

The Iberian Peninsula, where Spain is located, is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse regions in Europe, providing abundant resources for local hunting. In Spain, there are four types of hunting demarcated areas, each of which is managed and opened to the outside world in different ways. In fact, Spain is not only a paradise for hunting lovers in its own country, but also a hunting destination frequently visited by some European celebrities. Prince William and Prince Harry of the United Kingdom often visit Garganta Estate in southern Spain. This manor is the largest and most secret hunting ground in Europe. There are wild boars and wild deer in the park, as well as facilities such as hospitals and churches. The open space in the park is available for helicopters to take off and land. It is reported that Prince William and Prince Harry shot more than 700 partridges during a hunting trip.

There is a special prey processing plant

Every December, hunters will have the first harvest. Many of the “trophies” of the Spanish hunters will be exported to other European countries. Large animals, such as wild boar and deer, are favorites of restaurants in Germany, France, Belgium and other countries. Small prey such as hares are mostly consumed by Spanish residents. Spain also has dozens of specialized game processing plants, and wild boar ham is one of its specialties. “Global Times” reporters have tasted this special food at various food fairs. The ham is usually darker in color, harder, and unique in flavor. In addition, prey may also be made into specimens. According to statistics from the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation, the average cost of specimens made by Spanish hunters is 175 Euros (approximately RMB 1362) per person per year.

Although hunting is a Spanish tradition, it has also caused many controversies in recent years. Supporters believe that hunting is not only a tradition, but also helps maintain ecological balance. For example, the Spanish wild boar has a large population and has no natural enemies. If there is no hunting activity, it will cause environmental problems. Opponents believe that hunting, like bullfighting, is too cruel. Others believe that allowing minors to hunt and make them pay too much attention to how to hunt and kill without cultivating their awe of nature is not conducive to the development of minor values. In addition, more than 12,000 hounds will be abandoned in Spain after the hunting season each year, which is why some people oppose hunting. Some people complain that it is difficult for them to find a balance between traditional culture and modern civilization.