Is there protection against mistreatment of wild animals?

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We see a big evolution when it comes to domestic animals, but what about wild animals and those that live in the wild? In practice, it seems that the evolution of the regulations for these species is not the same. Let’s look at the Spanish example together.

In 2018, a sanction pronounced by the High Court of Justice of Castile-La Mancha revived discussions on the protection of wild animals against mistreatment in Spain.

In the case mentioned, an electricity dealer was fined nearly 150,000 euros. And this after an imperial eagle is electrocuted on its wing at the same time as an electrical support.

The decision of the court in Castile-La Mancha was considered a historic condemnation in Spain in terms of the protection of flora and fauna . Mainly because most of the specific sanctions handed down in the country have been associated with cases of domestic animal abuse.

Nevertheless, animalists agree that Spanish laws for the protection of wildlife are still scarce and ineffective . As a result, the native fauna remains in a state of great vulnerability .

Does Spanish law recognize the abuse of wild animals?

As mentioned in previous articles, Spain does not have a national framework law on animal welfare and mistreatment. Each autonomous community has the possibility to establish, by its ordinances, regulations to fight against the ill-treatment of wild and domestic animals, as well as to establish the most appropriate sanctions in each case.

If we go back to the example of the introduction, we see that Castile-La Mancha takes care of the protection of wildlife in two areas. These are the administrative and penal fields. In its article 108, the Law on Nature Conservation of Castile-La Mancha (Law 9/1999) defines as a very serious offense :

“The destruction, death, deterioration, collection, capture, possession, transport, trade and display for the purpose of unauthorized trade or naturalization of specimens of animals or plants cataloged as being in danger of extinction or sensitive to modification of their habitat ”.

A tiger in a cage.

Likewise, animal abuse is included in the Spanish Civil Code and Criminal Code. However, their texts have obvious limits, as we will see below.

Animal abuse in the Spanish Civil Code

Following the latest reform of its article 337, the Spanish Civil Code defines that a person who is punished from three months and one day to one year in prison is :

 “(…) by any means or procedure whatsoever, mistreats in an unjustified manner, causes injuries seriously damaging to his health or subjects to sexual exploitation:

a) a domestic or tame animal ;

b) an animal which is generally domesticated;

c) an animal that lives temporarily or permanently under human control; or

d) any animal not living in nature.

It is not difficult to see that the figure of animal abuse in the Civil Code is limited to animals living temporarily or permanently in a domestic environment. Therefore, its scope does not go so far as to offer real protection to the country’s wildlife.

The abuse of wild animals in the Spanish Penal Code

On the other hand, article 334.1 of the Spanish Penal Code deals specifically with the penalties applicable to the mistreatment of wild animals. Its text provides for a prison sentence of six months to two years for anyone who:

 “(…) Contravening laws or provisions of a general nature:

a) hunting, fishing, acquiring, possessing or destroying protected species of wild fauna;

b) trafficking in such products, their parts or their derivatives; or

c) engages in activities which prevent or hinder their reproduction and migration.

In addition, Spanish law provides that the same penalties can be applied to those who alter or seriously destroy the habitat of wildlife in Spain . It also provides for the forfeiture of the exercise of the profession or the right to hunt and fish for two to four years for people who commit one of these offenses.