This article forms part of political anthropology and attempts to show the positioning and play of political and economic power in how the environment is perceived and valued. It is an approach in the Mediterranean area to a debate based on the premise of the conjunction between nature and culture as a paradigm, carried out in the Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca. In the dynamic of actors, goats represent extreme nature, dangerous but also a bringer of new incentives for revaluing the environment as a supplier of hunting tourism. At present, the regulations of the public administrations only benefit the large estates while biodiversity, despite what some argue, is still in question.
What is the basis of understanding the environment? We have to keep in mind that we have already left aside the concepts of ecological determinism in relation to culture and are moving closer, to some extent, to the ideas of anthropologist Kay Milton (2010), who suggests that we substitute old formulas such as “environments shape cultures” and “specific environmental aspects shape specific cultural features” with “how we interact with the environment shapes how we understand it.” This is only one of the faces of a dual process, given that how people understand their environment also shapes how they relate to it and this changes according to what is introduced, recreated or valued in nature.
The environmental studies that take an interdisciplinary approach have undoubtedly managed to reliably dismantle the margins drawn between nature and culture, between local and expert knowledge. In this respect, I would like to present a phenomenon that is persistent but in the last 20 years has considerably changed the perception of natural resources, as well as the interaction, in this case, between animals and humans. I refer to the feral goats on the island of Mallorca and the actions resulting from their proliferation. Knowing that animals are independent beings and worthy of trust makes people act towards them in a certain way; seeing animals as objects to be subjected and consumed by humans leads to a different way of relating to them. Therefore, continuing with Milton’s reflections, we see that cultural perspectives provide the knowledge, assumptions, values, objectives and ideological foundation guiding human activity. This activity, in its turn, provides experiences and perceptions that shape people’s understanding of the world. The process is not unidirectional but dialectical, according to Milton (2010: 15).
Mallorca, the biggest island of the Balearic archipelago, shifted during the 20th century from a rural economy to mass tourism. It is not a new process but has been maturing continuously: for one hundred years the island has focused on tourism. In 1903, Bartomeu Amengual published the book La industria de los forasteros, with a prologue by the poet and essayist Joan Alcover, which reflected a serious concern with the subject. In 1905, the Sociedad del Fomento del Turismo was founded, the first of its kind in Spain, and still active. During the last 50 years there has been a major economic and tourism growth that has created processes of intense outsourcing and speculation with the sale of estates in rural areas. This does not mean that Mallorcans have lost the dietary guidelines that are one of the most important foundations of their identity. Local products are valued even if they are more expensive because of their “authenticity”.
Mallorca, the biggest island of the Balearic archipelago, shifted during the 20th century from a rural economy to mass tourism. It is not a new process but has been maturing continuously: for one hundred years the island has focused on tourism
Usually, sun and beach tourism is concentrated in dedicated enclaves, such as Palma Nova or Magaluz, among others. But Mallorca also has the Serra de Tramuntana, where there are still beaches that can only be reached after a long walk or by boat. On the northeast coast, the islands of Cabrera and Sa Dragonera are natural parks for birdwatchers and are home to species that do not exist in other parts of Europe.
The Serra de Tramuntana is the backbone of the northeast of Mallorca. It is 90 km long, with a maximum width of 15 km, in an area comprising 18 villages and towns ‒ the biggest being Calvià, Pollença and Escorca ‒, which account for almost 30% of the island surface area and over 1,000 km2. 8,000 people live in the core zones but the population in buffer zones amounts to around 40,000 inhabitants. Several summits exceed a height of 1,000 m, notably Puig Major (1,443 m), Puig de Massanella (1,348 m), Serra d’Alfàbia (1,069 m), Es Teix (1,064 m) and Galatzó (1,026 m).
In 2011, the Serra de Tramuntana was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in the category of cultural landscape. The website www.serradetramuntana.net, created by the Consell de Mallorca following the declaration, explains: “This is the international community’s acknowledgement of the near-perfect symbiosis between the action of human beings and nature, which has occurred for centuries, resulting in a monumental work by humans in which culture, traditions, aesthetics, spirituality and identity are merged. The cultural landscape of the Serra is the fruit of the exchange of knowledge between cultures, with small-scale works performed collectively for a productive end, conditioned by the limitations imposed by the physical medium. Limitations overcome by knowledge and the intelligent use of resources, without destroying the medium. And it is also the recreation of a region through the collective imagination and works by artists who have found inspiration in it.
« According to the European Landscape Convention, Cultural Landscape is an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and reaction of natural and/or human factors. This would suggest that the aim is not only to maintain the Serra as it is now. It is also to improve human intervention, promoting it with sustainable activities in accordance with certain objectives.”
All this is useful for proposing a series of strategic actions or the Serra de Tramuntana Management Plan to also achieve the involvement of public and private sectors and economic and social agents, as over 90% is private property.
This large wild coastal sierra in the northeast of the island from Sa Dragonera, to the peninsula of Formentor and Alcudia, covers around 92,000 hectares (a quarter of the area of Mallorca). It is an area of great biodiversity but not especially agricultural. The dry walls (marges) that have been used to retain the earth in the watercourses and the small valleys today provide much of the charm of the cultural landscape listed by UNESCO. This is the centenary work of the farmers to plant almond, olive and carob trees and some fruit trees on the edges and leave room for cultivating some cereals. The villages of the Serra de Tramuntana, in the 19th and 20th centuries, were the main sources of emigration to France and Cuba. The mountain provided some resources such as making charcoal, ropes made of fan palm and pine tree wood for packaging and cages for catching goats who feed between woods and cliffs, using an exclusive form of the hunting technique known as can i llaç. This traditional hunting now reclaimed as a cultural element involved capturing the animals alive, especially the kids, which were born of the goats that fed on the mountain and were sold for meat. Goats were captured in this specific way, as a native breed of sheepdog was used for this kind of hunting, a mix of Ibizan hounds and cans de bestiar – today Ibizan hounds are also crossed with border collies‒, in order to corral the goats and, taking advantage of the fact that the animals cannot escape (enrocar), put the lasso around their necks. But along with these animals there are the domestic goats, which were let loose by the owners when they sold the lands or gave up the trade. Today, fauna management experts point out that there is overpopulation of the species, which puts part of the endemic vegetation in great danger. They believe that the population should be reduced by two thirds. It is estimated that the total number of wild goats is around 20,000 individuals and that in certain areas the density can exceed 0.4 individuals per hectare. Moreover, another problem has emerged: each year greater deterioration of the species is seen because new feral goats have brought about the hybridisation of the breed, endangering the situation of the native goat, which today is appreciated again as a unique species with a high hunting value.
Domestic goats were let loose by the owners when they sold the lands or gave up the trade. Today, fauna management experts point out that there is overpopulation of the species, which puts part of the endemic vegetation in great danger
Moreover, the data is unclear but the number of goats is estimated at 40,000, although the Ministry of the Environment at the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands argues that around 8,000 goats are killed every year. One of the best studies I have found on this subject, which has not yet been explored by the anthropological discipline, is by the biologists Joan Antoni Vives and Elena Baraza, with a suggestive title: “La cabra doméstica asilvestrada (capra hircus) en Mallorca. ¿Una especie a erradicar?” (The feral goat (capra hircus) in Mallorca. A species to be eradicated?) It is a study using extensive international literature and summarised as follows: feral goats (capra hircus) appear in very diverse ecosystems throughout the world. Just like the wild varieties, they have a marked effect on the vegetation, are a hunting resource and maintain competitive relations with other ungulates. However, there are very few scientific studies that analyse the impact of the feral goat on islands where there were herbivores of more or less similar characteristics, and where the vegetation is clearly adapted to deter herbivores (with thorns, toxins, growing in rocky areas, etc.). This is the case of Mallorca, where the ancestral presence of an endemic ungulate before the arrival of man, Myotragus balearicus, suggests that herbivores are an ever present selection factor for the vegetation of the island (Alcover et al., 1999; Altaba, 2000). The first goats introduced on the island resulted in a local variety, the Mallorcan wild goat (C. aegagrus [hircus] ssp.). The introduction of new breeds in more recent times has brought about the establishment of a large population of feral goats, clearly differentiated from the first. Today, they share a habitat and hybridise, endangering the local ancestral variety. Little is known about the ecology of either species, whose management is currently based on their use for hunting, highly differentiated depending on the variety in question. These biologists warn that, given the magnitude of the problem, studies that help understand the real impact of the feral goats on Mediterranean island ecosystems are essential, as is the necessary scientific foundation for the correct management of their populations. Ecologically, the Mallorcan goat has a reproduction rate lower than the feral goats. Double births are very scarce, and the females take two years to reach reproductive maturity. It is said in their favour that feeding is also more selective than that of domestic goats, causing less impact on the vegetation, although this is not very clear because their diet is enormously varied, including fruits such as lentisk, acorns, fan palm fruits, other vegetables such as the tender reed, wild grass, tender shoots of pine trees or holm oaks and leaves of a vast group of plants and shrubs, bushes, heather, rosemary or the bark of many trees.
Studies that help understand the real impact of the feral goats on Mediterranean island ecosystems are essential, as is the necessary scientific foundation for the correct management of their populations
Many other aspects of their biology are still under study. There is a genetic study that forms part of the Recovery Programme for the Mallorcan Goat, started eight years ago with the morphological, genetic and ecological characterisation. In reference to other goats from other places, the shortest genetic distance is with the Iberian goats and the Cretan wild goat, which indicates a Mediterranean origin, perhaps based on the basal stem of goats that humans spread throughout the northern Mediterranean basin during the Neolithic.
Vives and Baraza (2010: 200) argue that these first results show that we are facing a case similar to that of the Corsican mouflon or the Cretan wild goat, varieties of domestic sheep and goats taken to the Mediterranean islands by the first Neolithic colonisers. But in contrast to the Mallorcan goat, these species have been studied for many years and are the object of management, conservation and hunting as trophies of world prestige. In this framework, we must ask about the taxonomical consideration the Mallorcan goat should have and, by extension, the feral biological entities introduced in ecosystems into which they have integrated, especially if they act as a key species causing effects on several levels. Therefore, we see that the native goat, in other words Myotragus, disappeared with the arrival of humans on the island, who later introduced a new goat that integrated into the ecosystem.
Despite the lack of scientific information, there is major social interest derived from all the environmental, economic and social issues, as a consequence of the proliferation of the goats in recent years, both if we talk with the owners affected on their estates and if we follow the highly abundant references in the press, magazines, websites and blogs about the feral goat and the Mallorcan wild goat.
Since the nineties there has been a confrontation between the groups linked to hunting the Mallorcan goat, who criticise control over feral goats by the Department of the Environment in some places and also those who defend the protection of the vegetation and endemic plants. Although the Serra de Tramuntana is heritage of humanity, it suffers constant summer fires like that of 2013, in which over 2,300 hectares were burnt in the area of Andratx and Estellencs. Following the last fire, the Consell de Mallorca is determined to eradicate the crossbreed goats and, finally, promote hunting activity as an alternative to sun and beach tourism. They consider hunters as visitors with great acquisitive power who come in search of the prized hunting trophy of the billy goat, popularly known as the Balearen boc (boc mallorquí). For this reason, the Consell has trained 60 specialised guides to help hunters in the Mallorcan mountains to stalk the big machos that are in good shape but beginning their biological decline. We must keep in mind that the price for shooting a specimen with imposing horns now oscillates between 6,000 and 9,000 euros. In this respect, it seems necessary to combat the plague of feral goats, protect the Mallorcan goat from crossbreeding and inadequate hunting, and regulate good management and use channels such as the game hunting trophy exclusive to Mallorca on the estates that comply with the requisites demanded.
One of the tasks of the new guides will be to select the individuals, identifying and shooting crossbreeds with the objective of purifying the breed. At the same time, the machos with bigger horns will be selected so that hunting tourists can get the most out of their rifles.
The Consell de Mallorca understands that sustainable use of the Mallorcan goat as a big-game hunting trophy is a very interesting way of conserving it. Currently, there are six game reserves in Mallorca prepared for the capture of goats as a hunting trophy: Formentor, Es Teix, Ternelles, Cala Murta, La Victoria and Sollerich. Other estates in Mallorca, especially in the Serra de Tramuntana, are studying how to adapt their game reserve to big-game hunting regulations, as the crossbreed goats do not count and, as we said, in the last 50 years domestic goats have been introduced in the feral colonies. This has resulted in the birth of many crossbreed specimens.
It is true that today the phenomenon is changing dimension: it is recognised that a collective strategy of managing old breeds is needed. As Hermitte argues, the conservation of certain very particular breeds is linked to a cultural option: “Local breeds can be understood in their cultural dimensions. Nostalgic people will then practise selective breeding aimed at sporting activities. However, the associations of amateurs will often link their activity with green agrotourism and integrate their hobby into the economic system. These breeds threatened by intensive breeding are finally conserved through a combination of urgent private and public actions. The difficulty comes from the fact that what is alive lives, and a short-term subsidy is not enough if the breed does not find some form of economic balance.” (1991: 93).
It is not easy to work from the anthropological discipline on subjects that have great economic importance like tourism, which in the last forty years has been a mass phenomenon. Nogués Pedregal sets out a genealogy of the difficult relationship between social anthropology and tourism and of the indifference of many academics to everything related to the subject despite honourable exceptions such as transcultural studies (2009: 52-53).
It seems necessary to combat the plague of feral goats, protect the Mallorcan goat from crossbreeding and inadequate hunting, and regulate good management and use channels such as the game hunting trophy exclusive to Mallorca on the estates that comply with the requisites demanded
In Beatriz Santamarina’s account of what the elements linked to nature and culture have meant in anthropology, I think that an interesting and useful approach in this article is related to the perspective of the politicisation of representations. A subject that Eric Wolf had already started to explain by placing the emphasis between the local and the global: “Each mode of production will form an ‘ecology of collective representations’ and here it is possible to observe the processes of selection and the practice of power” (1982: 171). Jeremy Boissevain created an anthropological discourse about Malta, another Mediterranean island, where he presents to us the perceptions of the diverse actors (1996; Roque, 2000). Undoubtedly, the development of political ecology involves a new effort in understanding the ideological links underlining any ecological representation, and I second the following: “The inclusion of the local and the global in the analyses, the emphasis on showing that the practices of the discourses, as historical and cultural products, condition our relations with the environment, revealing that there are distinct material and social logics that determine our relation with the environment and that there are other possible forms of shaping the natural links are contributions that invite us to a new consideration of the ecological beyond traditional determinisms of our culture” (Santamarina, 2008: 177).
We could say that, in Mallorca, the subject of goats is centuries old, but it was at the start of the nineties that it was relaunched for diverse reasons, such as the recovery of the native Mallorcan breeds. In the first decade of the 21st century a comprehensive mechanism was introduced that benefited the big estates on the northern Mallorcan coast.
In fact, there were five game reserves of this kind in the early 2000s – Cala Murta, La Victoria, Formentor, Es Teix and Ternelles – that formed part of the Asociación de Cotos de Caza. The Minister of the Environment at the Autonomous Government of the Balearic Islands, Marilena Turgores, participated in the Safari Club International 39th Annual Hunters Convention in Reno (USA). One of the priorities was to promote the activity and work with this association and, of course, promote the boc mallorquí. This convention is the most important contest of this kind internationally, and since 2005 the Balearen boc has been included as a hunting trophy in the SCI list, which re-values the animal in the market. Following her experience in the convention, to which Mallorcans were especially invited by the organisers, the Minister of the Environment explained that “it is an interesting activity because it helps the estates to survive” and “it is ecologically sustainable.” In this respect, Tugores mentioned the high income they receive for offering this product, “which enables maintenance of the mountain estates and the landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana, so important for our island.”
The system for promoting these estates and their activities is based on constituting associations that take advantage of the facilities provided by the Consell de Mallorca and also its political power
In 2011, 40 bocs were hunted annually in the five big-game hunting reserves. This corresponds to the number of users involved in this activity on the island, so that everyone shoots a specimen and most people involved are outsiders. It is, according to the Ministry of the Environment, another tourist attraction outside the summer season. The system for promoting these estates and their activities is based on constituting associations that take advantage of the facilities provided by the Consell de Mallorca and also its political power.
The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment notes that 95% of forest fires are due to human action: carelessness, absent-mindedness, imprudence, lack of attention, irresponsibility or pyromaniac behaviour. On 26 July 2013 a fire began in the Serra de Tramuntana that razed 2,347 hectares of forest, where different types of animals also live, including the Mallorcan wild goat we are discussing. At first it was believed that the cause had been the burning of stubble, a practice normally undertaken by peasant farmers to clean the estates, but it was actually started by a barbecue. On 30 July it was confirmed who was responsible and how the fire developed. The Agencia EFE released the news, reproduced in several national newspapers:
“The fire began at midday in the town of Andratx. The man admitted that, with his brother and two friends, he prepared a barbecue on their estate in Andratx. They used a metal wheelbarrow to cook, where the hot coals remained after the barbecue. The next day, the man tipped what he thought were only ashes into bushes, but in fact there were still some hot coals that ignited the fire, which neither the man nor his brother could put out in those first few moments. The residents of the town of Estellencs were gradually able to return to their homes yesterday afternoon. In the early hours of Sunday morning around 250 residents had been moved as a precaution, as well as another 450 people, who were tourists or non-residents visiting the area.”
Both the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands and the associations involved used the media to keep citizens, who were quite sceptical, informed about the work being carried out after the disaster. They did not say that preventative measures have diminished, such as the helicopters that keep watch and warn of any outbreaks of fire. One of the restoration plans was to start a culling campaign so that forest regeneration is not slowed down.
On 22 August 2013 the following story appeared in newspapers: “The Consell authorised 50 guides to help hunters from all over the world to catch the prized billy goat for 9,000 euros a piece.” In a column in the same newspaper, the columnist Miquel Adrover noted that “the guides will sacrifice goats” and also “will help to reduce the population to prevent them from devouring the reforestation following the fire in the Serra.”
Catalina Soler, Head of the Department of the Environment, explained that the new guides trained by the Consell de Mallorca would perform another important function: “they will sacrifice crossbreed goats in the burnt area of Andratx and Estellencs.” The objective was to reduce the numerous wild goat population in the area to avoid slowing down the reforestation of the 2,335 hectares. To reforest so many burnt hectares it would be necessary to plant millions of pine trees and shrubs throughout the area devastated by the fire. They planted young shoots of 10 centimetres in height cultivated in the public nursery of Menut (Escorca). The technicians’ fear was that the goats could devour the young trees and frustrate the reforestation. Government, Consell and hunters reached an agreement to carry out this goat cull. However, some animal defence groups criticised the decision and demanded an alternative to sacrificing goats.
For its part, the newspaper Ara Balears announced on 5 April 2014 that the commission « Tot(s) per sa Serra! » would allocate 355,270 euros to the restoration of 90 hectares burnt in the fire. The commission was formed by the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands, the Consell de Mallorca and the town councils of Andratx, Estellencs and Calvià, and the money came from donations from organisations, companies and private individuals made since the previous August: “Some planned actions have already been implemented and others are underway or will soon be carried out. We highlight the cleaning and removal of 2,000 burnt trees from the edges of the road and the building of revetments.”
The news rolled on and the website of the Department of the Environment, @xarxaforestal, announced quite optimistically: “Ten months have passed and the vegetation of the forest of the burnt area has strongly regenerated from the first rains, at the end of last summer. Both in terms of the species that re-sprout and the germinators, the vegetation covered the bare parts, albeit slowly and gradually. Moreover, in the framework of the restoration plan in the area affected by the fire, a series of actions have been carried out from the moment it was extinguished, with a total of 2,347 hectares burnt. Leaving aside the measures adopted to maintain as a priority the safety of goods and infrastructure, among others, we should note soil erosion control measures, repairing paths or improving the landscape through the partial elimination of dead wood, in addition to artificial regeneration.”
Undoubtedly, tourism is not a trivial subject. When we talk about tourism we are talking about second homes of both foreigners and Spaniards who have bought chalets or apartments or who stay in hotel resorts or country estates dedicated to rural tourism (I would say, rather, country tourism).
Echoing several international studies, Santana Talavera argues that: “Ecotourism or environmental tourism has been defined as ‘trips to natural areas relatively unchanged or uncontaminated with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the landscape, flora, fauna, as well as the cultural manifestations (past and present) characteristic of these areas on a nature journey that respects host communities’.” (2002: 4).
It all began in the late nineties. I read about a trophy that I thought was for feral goats. I soon went to Mallorca with the sound intention of meeting Bernardí and, also, hunting a goat in what looked like a wild and imposing landscape
Within some areas of the Serra de Tramuntana, we cannot say that the role of outsiders has always been harmful when buying houses in towns such as S’Arracó, in the municipal district of Andratx, many of them almost destroyed. Foreigners have been more determined to reform them following tradition, while the locals, in the sixties and seventies, built apartments and housing developments that had nothing to do with the local architecture and at the time were often poor quality. We could extend this to other parts of Mallorca.
If someone is interested in knowing how and where to go to hunt the Mallorcan boc, the best thing they can do is enter the website where they will find videos and offers. I would repeat, for example, the www.club-caza.com captiva!8/19/20, written by Adolfo Sanz with illustrations by Xavier Canyelles, because it is a representative example, a mix of blog and advertising, which I summarise with a few of the author’s words: “It all began in the late nineties. I read about a trophy that I thought was for feral goats. I soon went to Mallorca with the sound intention of meeting Bernardí and, also, hunting a goat in what looked like a wild and imposing landscape. I had never been to the island, I must admit. […] Mallorca entrapped me hopelessly. […] Let’s hunt, yes, let’s hunt! From Son Moragas to the area of Tossals Verds, where Antonio hunted a beautiful wild goat. […] In that period we hunted on the estates of the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands and the Consell de Mallorca, and permits were obtained with few problems. And although the rules changed from year to year, normally priority was given to hunting selective specimens, feral goats, although wild bocs could also be hunted. There was great fondness – and still is – among Mallorcan hunters for killing cabrits (kids), which are specimens of up to one year old and a delicious gastronomic ‘trophy’. Moreover, the capture of wild goats (cabres fines) using lassos and dogs has always been traditional, a hunting technique well rooted in Mallorca for centuries that can still be practised today. In recent years, it has also been possible to hunt with a bow, which has increasingly more followers. I really enjoyed myself in Cala Moritx. […] Pep Mejías welcomed me to his hunting reserve in Cala Murta.”
The wild goats (cabres fines) of Tramuntana not only attract hunting but also provide an interesting ecosystem, as they are hunted in the cliffs by the sea of this rugged coast. This represents diverse incentives, the first is the trophy of the animal, the landscape, a gastronomy that is also local, because in contrast to international food offered by tourist operators, the pictures feature charcuterie and typical dishes of top quality in the lunches of the hunters who stay on the hunting estates. This is the attraction of a Mediterranean island trying to promote a type of tourism with more economic resources. If rural tourism has involved the commercialisation of an area known for practising hobbies, in this case we can say that the hobby is hunting.
Santana Talavera (2002: 15) argues that all the products and activities commercialised as such, related to rural tourism, revolve around nature and culture, indivisible as a landscape and inspired by a kind of environmental sensationalism in which the countryside and tourism attraction are seen as the same thing. In this case, linked to rifles.
Debate on Sacrificing Feral Goats
One of the areas affected by fire was La Trapa, a mountain estate of 81 hectares located in the southeast of the Serra de Tramuntana, in the municipal district of Andratx, which was acquired in 1980 by the Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa (GOB) thanks to popular and institutional support with the aim of preserving it and conserving its values threatened by a plotting and housing development project. The GOB has always, and now more than ever, defended the eradication of goats because, for this association, goats are one of the biggest environmental problems of the forests of Mallorca.
In 2014 an intense debate began among hunters who wanted to maintain the goats and the Regional Government officers, who considered that they were a threat to reforestation of the Serra, and argue that overpopulation of goats was seriously threatening the sites, the endemic plants and reforestation. However, there was an important group of hunters who wanted to maintain them to continue with hunting. It was impossible to find common ground between these two postures in the intense and participatory debate organised by the Club Diario de Mallorca on this issue. Let’s look at the actors that participated in the debate and the different postures maintained during the confrontation.
Bartomeu Seguí, Doctor of Zoology and Head of the Hunting Service at the Consell de Mallorca, revealed that in Mallorca there is real overpopulation of goats. Specifically, he pointed out there are around 14,000 specimens, even though every day around 800 are eliminated. Seguí defended the selective elimination of impure goats to maintain the native kid. He recalled that in Mallorca there are seven large game hunting reserves where hunters from all over Europe can pay up to 10,000 euros to catch a billy goat specimen with large horns. This is the so-called Trofeo de Caza (Hunting Trophy), which attracts more followers every year. Tomeu Berga, director of Gestión Ambiental y Cinegética (GAC) in Formentor, shared the same opinion. He proposed appropriate management with the culling of crossbreed goats and enhancing the Trofeo de Caza ‒ he is the instigator of the prize ‒.
Joan Mayol, Head of the Service of Species Protection at the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands, questioned the difference between the pure Mallorcan goat and the crossbreeds. He argued that the goat “is an invasive and harmful species that, among other things, impedes the reforestation of areas devastated by the fires.” Mayol pointed out that the problem with the goats resulted from abandonment of crop areas and the management of the farms. He proposed greater control of the population.
Pep Lluís Gradaille, Director of the Botanical Garden in Sóller, held the same opinion: “We are completely opposed to goats that devastate endemic plants unique in the world and that have a very important heritage value.” He recalled that the goat is an introduced species and proposed that hunters help control the population of this plague and preserve the vegetal heritage. Several groups of hunters among the audience criticised the claims of Mayol and Gradaille and defended the persistence of the goats as an important economic activity. Therefore, they argued there is a big difference, proven by experts, between the native and the crossbreed goat. However, Mayol responded that the devastating effects on the environment are caused equally by all breeds.
The audience actively participated, sometimes almost heatedly. The animal rights groups intervened to condemn the human species wanting to control the goat population. Moreover, they criticised the fact that “people talk about eliminating thousands of goats without taking into account a code of ethics that considers that goats suffer and have feelings.” The naturalist Xavier Canyelles was responsible for responding to these groups: “Among other things, humans control goats because they can think while goats cannot.” According to him, the response won the applause of the hunters. Among the audience was Catalina Soler, Balearic Minister for the Environment, and Neus Lliteres, Director of the Directorate General of the Environment at the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands.
Continuing the debate in the media, we read again on 19 March 2014 that the Associació de Caçadors de Cabrits amb Cans i Llaç, an association that brings together over one hundred members from 15 towns in Mallorca, expressed concern about the policy being carried out by the Ministry of the Environment at the Regional Government of the Balearic Islands that, apparently, is aimed at eradicating the goat from the mountains of Mallorca. They criticised the argument that the solution to the problem is sacrificing the animals. The association wanted to ask the commission to resume talks and find an alternative solution which did not include sacrificing these specimens. At the same time, the association AnimaNaturalis (animal rights defenders) conducted an online protest campaign against the massacre of goats. In its proposal sent by internet it asked: « Are the goats responsible for the fire that has devastated the area? Hasn’t part of the problem been the fact that the preventative tasks have not been carried out correctly due to cuts? We find this decision totally unacceptable and premeditated. They should consider other options that do not involve exterminating animals. Perhaps a campaign of selective sterilisation to stop the population from increasing too quickly and thereby facilitating proper natural reforestation. Perhaps a volunteering campaign to help with tasks of sowing or spreading seeds or even to relocate the animals in other areas with more vegetation.”
Moreover, in an interview given on the same dates, Biel Capó, from the association Caçadors amb llaç d’Artà, expressed the opinion that the elimination of the goats would mean the irreparable loss of a unique genetic value with an important ecological and economic value. Moreover, the mountains would fill up with reed and undergrowth, which in the case of fire is like gunpowder. Capó pointed out that you only need walk around the mountains of the Betlem residential area to see that it is very difficult to get through, and that now there are very few specimens of goats. His association will continue fighting against this eradication and, if necessary, will appeal to the European courts of justice. Those who argue that the goats are worse than the fire and cement, should ask themselves if the last fires in Andratx or Artà have caused as much damage as the goats can cause. The goats are blamed for the pine groves not growing, and it is true that the goats can cause some damage to the specimens of young pine trees that grow, but, according to Biel Capó, in Mallorca there have been goats and pine trees for five thousand years. Both are necessary for the ecosystem. The important thing is how many specimens we have in the mountains constantly, to be able to control them within a population ratio that does not damage the ecosystem. To achieve this, a negotiating table is needed between all parties. The solution is not to completely eradicate the Mallorcan goat from our mountains.
Are We Talking about Landscape or Ecosystem?
Following this debate in Mallorca, we see that the concept of biodiversity has been attracting new followers, and the local communities with their ecosystems – what there is in their current ecosystems ‒ have been regarded as heritage of humanity. This debate is developing between groups that present themselves as defenders of nature, in this case of the Serra de Tramuntana, but let’s recall that this always follows the premise of the European Landscape Convention, “as perceived by people.” This convention suggests that it is not only about maintaining the territory of the Serra as it is at present, but also “to improve human intervention, promoting it with sustainable activities in accordance with certain objectives.” Of course, the objectives vary according to the position of the group. It is not a debate between nature and culture, as in the case of the Serra it forms a whole, nor between urbanisation and conservationism. The controversy we present is basically between associations that consider themselves conservationists: those that seek to protect the plants and those that seek to protect the goats, the latter within certain parameters.
In terms of the interdependence dictated by the idea of ecosystem, the legal concept that will enable us to understand it is yet to be invented, argues Hermitte (1991: 87): « For a long time a variety has been replaced with a well-intentioned conservation strategy. » In the course of the ecological movement, things change their nature, because the objective of some was to put on the commercial circuit the old varieties that, in many countries, could be conserved, but not sold, because they were considered outdated, therefore unsellable from the perspective of defending the quality of the products, which in Mallorca has changed radically. In this frame of mind, we could ask ourselves, just like Alain Roger, if there is an animal protection law, which he himself answers: “Not strictly speaking.” The ecological interest demands long-term calculation, in which numerous parameters are considered although they are not exclusively economic (1991: 15).
Today the goats, as has been the case for millennia, do not have a predator. Even dogs that kill other animals prefer sheep, which are easier to attack than goats. Most of the active estates in Tramuntana and Llevant are used for dry farming (olive, carob and almond trees); in terms of stock breeding, the big estates also have sheep, so that cereal crops are used especially for feeding this livestock.
Are the goats responsible for the fire that has devastated the area? Hasn’t part of the problem been the fact that the preventative tasks have not been carried out correctly due to cuts?
Moreover, for the peasant farmers the pine was and is a plague, as it has widely replaced other species such as holm oaks. The pine tree was felled and eradicated in the marjades, slightly inclined terraces for agricultural purposes. The fires on the estates of the town of Andratx have revealed the dry walls built in the 19th century before the migrations, which reached the top of the comellars to prepare the crops. Covered by the bushy undergrowth and the pine trees, it seemed that the latter had always been there. In the forests they made charcoal with wild olive trees and another type of wood, better than the Mediterranean pine. The abandonment of unprofitable estates has caused scrub to spread, a type of very alcoholic shrub that burns easily but also regenerates, as in the case of the fan palm (garballó). Returning to the town of Andratx, facing the island of Sa Dragonera there were goats that had owners although they took them to the mountain. They were the new more productive goats, those that were abandoned and that now appear especially in summer when the land in the rural estates dries up, eating the gardens and the bark of the fruit trees.
Anne Vourch and Valentin Pelosse (1988:191) wonder about wild production: “How to reconcile the hunting idea of the old solitary animal that attacks, the wild boar, with the reality of the hybrids that make up most of the hunting species today?” We cannot say that in Mallorca, interest in the wild goat or fina is only the result of the international hunting trade. From the 1980s there was concern with the local nature of the animals, an aspect also present in the peninsula. Payere and Pons (1991) warn, with respect to the Mallorcan goat or fina, that it was in serious danger of extinction and only conserved on the estates of the Serra de Tramuntana, living alongside other types of goats without selection or organisation.
In the 1980s, in France, relating hunting and fauna protection was quite a new idea. This kind of idea is present in the new discourse of the hunting authorities developing a new ethics, a new image of the sports and protective hunter, a discourse that seeks to justify a practice that has lost much of its legitimacy in public opinion. Ecologists (militants) and environmentalists (scientists) have the opportunity to condemn the discrepancy between the management intentions of hunting authorities in terms of fauna and the reality of the destructive practices of most hunters; for the adversaries of hunting it would simply mean, according to the classic process, hiding the reality of the practices for the sake of the discourse and the protectionist aims would act as ideological compensation. Vourch and Pelousse see that this association between hunting and protection also forms part of the institutional level of the administrative organisation of hunting management (1991: 210), an aspect that we corroborate for Mallorca. The disappearance of rabbits with myxomatosis made hunters in Cévannes turn to the wild boar. In Mallorca, the devotion to hunting goats is more complex, as since ancient times we know that people have taken goats to the mountains for this purpose.
It is interesting to consider that, in a wider context, modern society fully participates in the imaginary of the wild, of the natural, in a compensatory projection of the irreversible destruction of the environment.
It is interesting to consider that, in a wider context, modern society fully participates in the imaginary of the wild, of the natural, in a compensatory projection of the irreversible destruction of the environment. Moreover, on some estates of the Consell de Mallorca natural parks are opened where it is hoped to recreate and protect the “pure” species, a concept that in Mallorca is taking root to attract the resources of hunting tourism or those who want to observe nature.
The legitimised representation of hunting by the institutions is linked to the defence of the viability of agriculture as in other parts of old Europe. The notion of the defence of wild fauna in relation to hunting is not expressly developed just to allow a minimum reproduction of the animals but so that hunting is regulated, as we see in the different statements issued by the Consell de Mallorca.