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Hunters in Portugal

Hunters in PortugalPortugal is a delight to live in. Except for hunters. Why is the unarmed population at the mercy of a bunch of gun-toting individuals, often drunk in the early morning?

Several years ago hunters climbed over our neighbour’s fence into the yard, threatened with their guns, shouted insulting remarks and shot dead the beloved pet cat. They dumped a dog inside our fence with nothing more wrong with it than a cyst on the neck. Next season they dumped a dog on a road nearby which cried by the roadside for several days until a kind resident took it in. I hear dumping dogs is a common hunter tactic. I’ve seen baited bird traps left by hunters and seen them using explosives to flush hares and rabbits.

This year they tossed cartridges and a beer bottle cap inside our fence, sheer spite because we went to the trouble and expense of hanging no hunting signs and because there is nothing left to hunt between lack of rain, annual wall-to-wall ploughing and hunters. I hear that this week 20 hunters bagged one animal between them. So what are the natural predators going to eat?

A friend was stopped in his car on a public road by a hunter standing mid-road and shooting at a bird flying above said friend’s car. Surely this is illegal? A health professional, a few years ago when her children were young, was afraid to let them into the garden on hunting days. One hunter shot a bird that fell onto the roof of a house, people inside. Now that was illegal.

Perhaps Algarve Daily News could invite readers to contribute more hunting experiences from the barrel end of the gun?

When we bought our small plot of land, I filled dozens of bags with years old spent cartridges which, years later, continue appearing after rain and wind. Portugal’s rural areas are heavily polluted with hunters' signature plastic strips tied to trees and fence posts, which they never remove, and millions of cartridges which shred into fine splinters of plastic that livestock and other animals eat, and the metal bases, left to rust and leech into the soil. Judging by the cartridges on our small plot, the whole country is awash in LEAD - a lethally poisonous metal.  A metal for which the Health Authorities say that the safe level for humans is ZERO. Presumably the hunters and their families eat the bag, also toxic from lead shot. Why is lead shot not banned?

Land, hunting and wildlife conservation laws are biased in favour of hunters, never non-hunters or wildlife. For example, when you buy a plot of land which the previous owner let to hunters on a five year contract, it is really hard and sometimes impossible to get that cancelled. Surely hunting permits must automatically be renegotiated with the new owner?

The most compelling argument against hunting in this day and age is that the human population is now 7.9 billion: 99% of all biomass is human and livestock. Wildlife accounts for 1%. All wildlife on the planet is threatened and direly so in Portugal with ever more huge monoculture plantations - olives, vines, avocado pears, eucalyptus, solar farms. There is ONE national nature park, but it is not reserved for wildlife: humans live there, practice agriculture and animal husbandry. Wildlife is being driven out of existence by exponentially increasing livestock, notably cattle which are a disaster in low rainfall areas like Baixo Alentejo, annual ploughing (which removes food and shelter for many species and destroys all new tree growth), cutting dead tree branches (which removes an important bird nesting habitat and habitat for hundreds of insect species that are a vital food source for birds and bats. Then hunters shoot the rest.

I suggest that hunting should be allowed only inside fenced land owned by the hunters association in each province. Also that the nature of gun waving be changed from eliminating the last of Portugal’s fabulous wildlife to a competitive sport where regular regional meetings (on land owned by the hunters association) provide a venue for gun dealers to demonstrate their wares and gun lovers to compete for prizes contributed by companies that benefit from advertising at these occasions. No need for hunting dogs adding to Portugal’s vast population of strays. Everyone’s happy!


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