Silvestrism: A Tradition That Faces Illegality

Silvestrism has remained a hobby that is transmitted from parents to children and that years after years depends on the capture of thousands of copies to train them in singing and compete in the different competitions held throughout Spain. However, the environmental organization BirdLife International states that this practice is a major threat to birds. 

Despite subscribing to the EU Bird Directive laws for several years, Spain still authorized thousands of fans to capture different types of bird specimens for the practice of silvestrism. This situation has generated, since 2011, some environmental infraction procedures that, until now, have been completed with the cessation of permits for catches in different communities, especially in Madrid, which accumulated more than 210,000 catches between 2010 and 2017, according to Equo deputy Alejandro Sánchez.

A controversial tradition

The origin of the silvestrismo dates from the time when the first civilizations captured birds for their food and realized that using other birds as “claims” could get more prey. 

Subsequently, the fondness for training birds was introduced using “singing masters”, extending this practice from southern Spain to the entire region, until it is considered a sport that currently has more than 40,000 amateur silvestrists throughout the country. 

However, for some years this activity has been overshadowed by the dissatisfaction of environmental and animal protection organizations that claim that this practice threatens the biodiversity of migratory species, as thousands of catches and deaths of different types are recorded every year. of birds, many of which are produced by the traps that generate stress in the specimens that end up dying. 

The traps allowed

In the practice of silvestrismo some traps are used, reviewed by the Ministry of Environment, whose system is activated by ropes and incorporates some lateral networks. These nets swoop down towards the center, capturing the birds that have been rummaging through the thistles and the other plants arranged on purpose. The use of other birds, called “claims”, is necessary to attract the birds that are passing through with their songs. 

Among the species that are caught in Spain for silvestrism are the common Pardillo, Verdecillo, Jilguero, Pinzón vulgar, Verderón common and the Canary, allowed only in the Canary Islands, all these species are protected in a cage for small birds and where the care for training in singing begins. 

It should be noted that the use of glue or bond for traps was previously accepted, however since 2010 this practice was banned, being the only network traps allowed to be harmless to birds. Even so, the Silvestrism tradition fails to comply with European legislation that prohibits the capture of wild fringilids within their natural habitat, since there is a feasible solution that is captive breeding.

However, the silvestristas declare that this alternative is not viable for the sport, because the birds must be born free to preserve the feral singers qualities that they have acquired from their parents and congeners from the moment of their birth. Thus, they claim to use bred in captivity, although they are in l better birdcage of the time, it would mean the disappearance of the SILVESTRISMO. 

Negative statistics

By October 2018, the community of Madrid was forced to veto permits for catches of specimens for silvestrism, since the imminent economic sanctions of the European Union would directly affect taxpayers who outnumber amateur silvestrists. 

The statistics that led to the motivated report of the European Commission denounced that between 2010 and 2016, 205,401 birds were captured only in the community of Madrid by 1,500 silvestrists authorized by the competent bodies. Among the species captured were 125,760 goldfinches, 54,280 pardillos and 25,361 greengrocers, all of which are allowed in the region. 

However, these regular figures are added those associated with poaching throughout the territory, which are evidenced by the confiscation of illegally captured birds and unauthorized species, and then commercialized. This is what deputy Alejandro Sánchez let him know.

According to reports from environmental organizations such as SEO BirdLife, these catches pose a risk to the future viability of populations of affected species. This same entity has stated that its intention is not to stigmatize the Silvestrist community since it understands that the values ​​of traditions deserve respect. However, they emphasize that the enjoyment of some athletes cannot affect the natural heritage of the region, so these customs must be adapted to be sustainable over time.

Contrast of arguments

On the other hand, the silvestristas represented by the Madrid Hunting Federation said that according to their data, they only registered 1% of the death rate of adult specimens, so they have no indicators that the permitted species reduce their population due to the practice of This sport in Spain.

They also claim that in order to start captive breeding, it will be necessary to establish a transition period of at least ten years; time in which an adaptation of the breeding is estimated. However, they confirm that they do not have any technical-scientific support that guarantees that the singing qualities of the fringilid species are maintained if they are raised under these conditions. 

There is no doubt that this is a very controversial issue, with detractors on one side and supporters on the other, organizations that defend animal life and the conservation of migratory species, international laws that limit the practice of these activities and thousands of people who They cling to maintain their cultural traditions.

It should be noted that throughout the territory of Spain there are thousands of families and communities that promote a responsible practice of silvestrism, to continue transmitting to the future generations the passion for this activity, in which the care and care of the bird during its training is the priority to get the best results.

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