Wind turbine noise threatens Galicia’s ancestral wild horses

The Times reports that local people in Galicia in north-west Spain believe that the noise of wind turbines is jeopardising the survival of their ancestral wild horses. In this beautiful, wild and open yet windy landscape, a wild horse herd belongs to a village, Sabucedo. In a ritual from the 16th century, villagers round up the horses in a yearly event. It is called Rapa das Bestas.

It’s a spectacle which raises money for the horses’ welfare. The people of Galicia have “corralled wild horses since the Roman age” according to Isambard Wilkinson writing for The Times.

But times are changing and the pressing need for zero carbon energy production has motivated the administrators of Galicia to extend renewable energy as it is a key political issue. The area where the horses live is windy and therefore a good site for wind turbines.

Galicia's wind turbines are said to harm the welfare of the wild horses
Galicia’s wind turbines are said to harm the welfare of the wild horses. Image: Crushpixel.

But there are a couple of problems. Firstly, Paolo Vincente, 42, head of Sabucedo’s annual event said:

“The turbines will drive away the horses and they will become extinct and the tradition will die. Some of the turbines will be in the middle of the route we followed to lead them down from the mountain to the Rapa in Sabucedo. It is a scandal.”

He added:

“The noise they produce is more decibels than is allowed in cities. It will disorient the horses and may produce alterations in the food chain, favouring its predator, the wolf”.

Horses have excellent hearing, better than that of humans. Vincente’s argument is entirely plausible (see article at base of page).

The second problem as perceived by the locals is that the region’s resources are being exploited by foreign companies and as a consequence there is no benefit to the local economy and people. This, incidentally, is a European-wide problem. It happens in the UK with foreign companies buying essential services to which they have no allegiance. All they want to do is make money for the company. There is a strong argument that essential services such as the production of energy should be owned and managed exclusively by companies present and resident in the country concerned. Those are my views.

In Spain generally renewable energy projects are naturally becoming more popular because of the pressing need to protect the environment and slow global warming due to come dioxide emissions. Zero carbon energy is the target.

Spain, under the current socialist government have targeted 74% of electricity from renewables by 2030. Spain appears to be well suited to wind turbines because of large areas of unpopulated countryside and its climate. The government of Spain wants the country to become one of Europe’s leaders in renewable energy production.

Vincente’s campaign against the turbines is supported by 98% of his community. It is a competition between doing what is sensible in terms of protecting the environment and protecting local traditions and the wild horses.

Nowadays there are about 400 wild horses belonging to Sabucedo which is about half what it was in 2006. There are other reasons for the decline in numbers such as theft for horsemeat and encroaching eucalyptus plantations.

There’s been a general fall in wild horse numbers across Galicia. In all around 10,000 inhabit the area which is half what it was 50 years ago.

In Sabucedo the community owns the horses by and large but in other areas there are individuals who are the “majority owners”.

The event then I mentioned, the Rapa das Bestas is somewhat controversial as it entails taking the horses down to the village where they are wrestled to the ground and their manes and tails are clipped. The hair was sold for clothing and mattresses but that market no longer exists. They take the opportunity to vaccinate and disinfect the animals and preserve the ceremony.

Animal rights groups don’t like the practice as they consider it maltreatment.

When did people start riding horses?

Infographic on ‘How well can horses hear?’

Leave a Comment

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.