A flock of 2,000 sheep were herded through Madrid on Sunday, as part of a symbolic protest by Spanish shepherds to ensure that grazing and migration rights would be protected in the face of increasing urbanisation.
The Spanish capital came to a standstill as the massive flock of sheep were herded past Madrid’s major landmarks including the Puerta del Sol and the Bank of Spain headquarters, causing many of Madrid’s main roads to be closed and traffic to come to a standstill.
The shepherds made a stop at old town hall, the Casa de la villa, so that the group’s head shepherd could make a payment of 25 maravedies, an old Spanish currency, as payment to Madrid authorities for being allowed to use the route.
The reason for the shepherds moving the sheep through Madrid was so that they could raise awareness for the protection of ancient grazing and migration rites that are becoming increasingly threatened by urban settlements, railways and roads and modern farming techniques. In the 13 century, a group of Shepherds formed a Shepherd’s union which was able to secure from the then king, King Alfonso X, extensive right-of-way concessions for the annual migrations from north to the warmer south ahead of the winter – Trashumancia.
Since then, the Trashumancia has been important ritual for Spain’s shepherds and the welfare of their flocks.
Nevertheless, in modern times the number of shepherds now taking these routes has decreased significantly and those shepherds that still rely on the Trashumancia are calling on the government to ensure that these are maintained so that the tradition can continue.
Accompanying the sheep and shepherds, were musicians and dancers dressed in traditional Spanish rural attire worn by rural workers in the Spanish countryside centuries ago.
Additional Reporting AP