This passed 3rd August, the Spanish government brought to the Congress the draft of the poorly named “Animal Welfare Law” (Ley XX/2021, de XX de XXX, de protección, derechos y bienestar de los animales).
I don’t know if the PSOE and the parties that support it are clear about it or not, but what is certain is that if this law is approved as it has been presented, it will be a real catastrophe that will have extremely serious consequences in many areas.
Let’s take it one step at a time.
The draft of the law plans to prohibit the keeping and breeding in captivity of millions of animals belonging to thousands of species that until now have been bred legally and kept as pets in Spanish homes, without this ever having caused any problem. The draft of the law foresees the illegalization of all non-native species that are included in the CITES treaty or in the Bon and Berne Conventions. Note that we are talking about outlawing almost all birds, for example almost all psittacines (parrots, parakeets and similar), all mammals (with the exception of dogs, cats, ferrets and some rodents and lagomorphs), all reptiles, all amphibians, and all invertebrates.
This ban will force thousands of professional and hobby breeders to impede their animals from breeding. They will not even be allowed to sell them. They will have to keep them without any future date being designed, if they are not directly confiscated, piled up in administration centers and destined to oblivion. What has this have to do with the search for animal welfare? Just imagining the situation of the overcrowded animals in these centers makes my hair stand on end.
For hobby breeders this will be a huge trauma. For professional breeders this will lead directly to financial ruin.
And attention: we are talking about species that are all included in the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) precisely because they are threatened and we must conserve their populations as much as possible, whether in the wild or in captivity. CITES itself sponsors and regulates captive breeding as another conservation strategy. The genetic heritage of the specimens that are being bred in captivity in Spain is of incalculable value. And now the government has decided that they are going to prevent them from continuing to breed. Let’s be clear about one thing: for the purposes of species conservation, a specimen that cannot reproduce is as good as dead.
Spain will cover itself in glory. It will become a state that, instead of helping to conserve endangered species, has caused the largest mass extinction on record.
However, from a strictly economic point of view, the damage will go much further. In Spain, the pet sector is very important; many companies have their activity centered on this sector: breeders, manufacturers of feed, nutritional complements, cages, accessories, veterinary services, exhibitions and congresses… The economic damage that the application of this law will mean for the Spanish economy will be enormous and irreparable.
Let’s be closer: my 84-year-old mother-in-law has an African grey parrot born on our premises 22 years ago. It’s her pet. From one day to the next, this animal, which we regard as a member of the family, will become illegal and the administration will be able to confiscate it. The same thing will happen in hundreds of thousands of Spanish homes. Do they consider it normal? Where is the welfare?
Have the promoters of the law given any thought to what might happen if they outlaw millions of animals? The scientific community is well aware of this and doesn’t agree with it. Has it not occurred to them that some of the owners might choose to set them free? We all know that this is not allowed, but do we know how people will react when they are told that they can no longer keep their animal and that they cannot even sell or donate them to someone else? Can you imagine a scenario in which our forests, fields, and parks are overrun with snakes, felines, arachnids, and all kinds of exotic animals? We will have gone from a policy of invasive species control to mass invasion by species that would never have otherwise been released.
The accumulation of nonsenses of the law has no end, but there’s another that I cannot fail to point out. While in Europe some states are already rethinking how to deal with the problem of feral cat colonies, in Spain this law proposes their “normalization” and “institutionalization”. A few days ago, Poland decided to declare feral cats an “invasive species”. Soon more countries will move in the same direction. The argument of Polish scientists is irrefutable: in Poland alone, cats prey on about 140 million birds every year. To this dramatic figure must be added the millions of reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals that are also depredated every year. The damage to biodiversity and native fauna caused by cats is intolerable and unsustainable. It’s incredible that in Spain this law, which supposedly seeks the welfare of animals, is proposing the opposite option, without showing the slightest empathy for the hundreds of thousands of animals that are slaughtered by feral cats every day.
I hope this message will help to make people see, especially to those with political decision-making power, that this draft is a real and lethal threat. We all agree that the welfare of the animals we live with should be promoted, no one disputes that, but the fact is that this draft goes in the opposite direction. If there’s one thing this draft doesn’t convey, it’s empathy for animals and people because of the suffering it will cause if it’s implemented.