A delegation from SOS Galgos headed by its Director, Anna Clements, travelled to Strasbourg to join an international demonstration organised by the French association, CREL. Demonstrators demanded that Spain meet European standards in animal welfare. In particular, they condemned the plight of the Spanish galgo and asked the European Parliament to pressurise Spain to prohibit hunting with galgos, the most cruelly treated breed of dogs in Spain.

Representatives from SOS Galgos also attended protests in front of Parliaments in Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday 10th June. The Spanish demonstrations were organised by animal rights party PACMA. The Madrid protest was attended by Carmen Urbano, the President of SOS Galgos, who stated “The situation is Spain is appalling, if a country’s culture and ethics can be judged by its treatment of animals, Spain should be ashamed.”

It is estimated that hunters ‘dispose’ of 60,000 galgos a year in Spain. These animals are literally ‘disposable objects’ and can commonly be seen abandoned on roadsides in rural areas such as Andalusia, Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha and Castile-Leon from February onwards (the end of the hunting season).

The so-called ‘galgueros’ (hunters who use galgos to hunt hares) use unimaginably cruel methods to ‘dispose’ of their galgos: they are thrown down wells, doused in acid, burnt, hung from trees or half-hung from trees by inhumanely letting the dog’s back legs touch the ground and therefore prolonging their agony. Thousands of abandoned galgos are euthanized in municipal animal shelters which are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers they receive every year.

In addition to the appalling welfare suffered by these creatures, abandoned galgos represent a risk in terms of road safety, incur costs to the taxpayer and cause environmental damage. According to the Spanish Highways Agency (DGT), animals cause more than 16,000 road traffic accidents a year and a study by RACC found that 23.7% of road traffic accidents are caused by dogs. The end of hunting with galgos would be beneficial, not only to the galgo, but to road users and even to the environment, in terms of helping conserve the Iberian Lynx for which hares are a main source of food.

Associations both in Spain and abroad have been campaigning for years to improve galgo welfare but local and national authorities in Spain have remained passive and have made no effort to resolve the problem. Now, under the initiative of the French association CREL, these associations have united in their common cause, by taking the plight of the Spanish galgo to the European Parliament.

The protest was supported and attended by the Euro MP and Vice President of Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, Michèle Striffler. “What is happening in Europe should be made known… I sincerely hope this event serves to make public the plight of Spanish galgos, especially in the South”, stated Striffler in a letter to the President of CREL, Jerome Guillot.

In October 2011, the Euro Chamber condemned the extreme cruelty suffered by Spanish galgos by writing to the President of Spain demanding an end to such barbarism.

SOS Galgos has been rescuing and defending galgos’ rights for over 12 years. It was one of the first organisations to start fighting to improve galgo welfare in Spain. SOS Galgos not only rescues and re-homes large number of galgos every year, it also works at educational and legislative level to promote change. The association made official complaints against the last remaining racetrack in Spain resulting in its closure.

“We ask Europe to demand that Spain prohibits hunting with galgos. We are their voice.” These were the solemn words of Anna Clements when closing her speech in Strasbourg.