A new animal protection bill has been proposed by the government of Spain that bans the use of wild animals in circuses, cockfighting, and pigeon shooting, and that would change the nature of zoos. The bill, named the Animal Protection, Rights and Welfare Act, also includes more severe penalties for anyone who mistreats any vertebrate animal and stipulates that domestic companion animals may not be killed unless for sanitary or health reasons. If the bill is passed by the Spanish Congress, dogs, cats, and ferrets could not be sold in pet shops, animal guardians would have to have official identification for their animals and breeders would have to be on an official register. Penalties for ill-treating an animal will be up to two years in prison if the animal dies and up to three years if there is more than one aggravating circumstance. Wild boars, who have not been covered by the regulations before, will receive some protection if the bill is passed without amendments. However, there is no change regarding bullfighting, animal experimentation, or animals from the agriculture industry, which will disappoint the animal protection movement — although amendments may be presented on those issues  

Ione Belarra, the Minister of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, said, “This first animal rights law makes us more humane by ending the impunity of abusers, with prison terms and fines that can reach 200,000 euros… The vast majority of our society cares for, loves, and respects animals and we want our country to have legislation that is up to par”.

If the bill is passed, all zoos and dolphinariums will have to be converted into “centres for the recovery of native species”, but remains to be seen whether this conversion will be real or only in name. When legislation in several countries began imposing conservation requirements on zoos, many zoos found ways to carry on exhibiting wild animals for entertainment pretending to do significant conservation work, but it may be more difficult to pretend an animal is native to the country if it is not. 

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Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.