Farmers, cattle-breeders and hunting enthusiasts have descended on the country’s capital to protest against environmental and economic policies by Spain’s left-of-center government that they say are choking the rural world.
Sunday’s protest was organized by Alma Rural 2021, a platform representing over 500 rural organizations from all corners of Spain. Members of center-to-far-right opposition parties attended the protest.
The demonstration comes as Spanish politicians are campaigning before a snap election in Castilla-Leon, a vast region northeast of Madrid where proposals against depopulation and agricultural policies are taking center stage.
Carlos Bueno, head of Alma Rural 2021, said that the aim of the protest was to bring attention to the situation of the rural world amid “ideological” attacks from the government and to seek solidarity from the rest of Spaniards.
Demands from participants ranged from regulation of prices for agricultural products to protection of breeders of cattle for bullfights and more subsidies for rural industries, among many others.
Tractors and bull carts headed the march along a Madrid thoroughfare, with protesters walking from the gates of the Ecology Transition Ministry, which was the Environment Ministry previously, to the Agriculture Ministry. Among the many banners held by protesters, one read: “Farmers speak. Who’s listening?”
In a statement, Spain’s Ecological Transition Ministry said that the country’s budget for 2022 includes 4.2 billion euros ($4.7 billion) to fight the depopulation of rural areas. Spain’s rural world “doesn’t need populist slogans but political involvement and resource to solve historical problems,” it said.
A spat over industrial livestock farming has dominated headlines for the past month since Consumer Minister Alberto Garzón, a member of the far-left junior partner of the Socialist-led administration, criticized big cattle exploitations for damaging the environment and producing poor quality food for export.
His remarks caused a political storm, created divisions within the coalition and led to calls by the right-wing opposition parties for Garzón to resign.