Flock to See Shepherd Protest
Paul Hamilos of The
Usually it's the endless traffic
jams, interminable roadworks and streets so tight that two cars
can barely scrape through without losing a wing mirror that make
driving through Madrid a challenge. Yesterday it was the sheep.
As part of an annual protest
calling for the protection of traditional grazing routes,
Spanish farmers herded around 1,000 sheep and other farm animals
through the city centre yesterday.
Thousands of miles of ancient
paths, including some that traverse the capital, are supposedly
protected by Spanish law to allow farmers to move their
livestock from summer to winter grazing land. But, just as the
coastline has been devoured by property speculation, so have
these farming routes. The environment ministry has warned that
one-third of Spain risks being turned into desert because of
over-grazing, modern farming techniques and property
Alongside farmers from across Spain shepherds
from 40 countries, including Mongolia, India, Kenya and Mali,
took part in the event. They came with a universal message -
that their land and livelihoods are in the hands of governments
and developers intent on modernisation at any cost. The farmers
argue that as populations become more sedentary and pastoral
farming dies out, so does the land, causing desertification and
dwindling food supplies.
Batu Eerdun, from southern Mongolia, had made the
trip to learn from other pastoralists and publicise the plight
of nomadic farmers in his homeland. "The Chinese government is
taking our land," he said. "We are losing our great tradition of
A group of Kenyan nomads explained that, while
images of traditional farmers are used to publicise the country
as a tourist destination, their rights to the land are steadily
being eroded. "The government does not respect our contribution
to the economy. We want them to give us our rightful place,"
said Clement Isaiah. Anna Muhale from Tanzania said her
government's tourist policies were taking away grazing land from
families that had farmed it for centuries, in order to develop
natural parks ideal for safari holidays. "They value animals
more than human beings," she said.