THE countryside came to Spain’s capital on Sunday when thousands of farmers marched through Madrid’s main thoroughfares in a protest against the government’s agricultural policy.
A motorcade of tractors crawled down the Paseo de la Castellana while other farmers rode in on horseback or drove carts pulled by oxen and donkeys.
There was even a falconer, who marched with his hawk on his arm.
The protest, which ended with a rally outside Spain’s Agriculture Ministry, was called by Alma Rural campaign group against the government’s agricultural, environmental and animal welfare policies.
“Agriculture is dying,” bemoaned Carlos Bueno, secretary general of Alma Rural.
Among the demands is a call to halt a new animal welfare bill currently going through Spain’s parliament, that farmers argue will threaten their industry.
The march included representatives from the bullfighting world as well as farmers and hunting organisations who are against protection for the Iberian wolf, which they claim kill 21,000 livestock every year and cause €9 million (US$10 million) worth of damage.
Alma Rural has also called for better promotion of goods produced in Spain and a ban on food imports from countries where the rules are less strict.
The protest comes amid a nationwide debate on Spain’s reliance on controversial intensive farming practices sparked by comments made by Alberto Garzon, the consumer affairs minister in the left-wind coalition government of Pedro Sanchez.
Conservative opposition leader Pablo Casado from the PP lent his support to the protest, tweeting that farmers, ranchers and fishermen “should no longer be despised”.
Spain is one of the largest agricultural producers in western Europe providing employment to some 800,000 people, according to official figures.