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Romanian Shepherds Stormed Parliament Demanding Changes to Sheepdog Laws

They were angry about about laws limiting the number of dogs that can guard their sheep.
December 16, 2015, 7:03pm

These shepherds said in front of the Parliament: "We work high in the mountains, you can't protect yourself there with only two dogs. The bears would come and eat us all and the sheep." Photos by Mircea Topoleanu

This article originally appeared on VICE Romania

The Romanian government has temporarily lifted restrictions on the number of sheepdogs and grazing times after 3,000 shepherds in traditional clothing stormed into the courtyard of the country's parliament building in protest.

According to police, one cop ended up using pepper spray to defend himself against the shepherds after he broke a finger in the fray.

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When one MP, Cristiana Anghel, came to talk the shepherds waving a handful of papers, they were pulled out of her hand and torn apart by one of the shepherds. She later called him "stupid". She told Romanian TV: "He was no shepherd, he was a stupid agitator. He was clean, he was from the city, he did not stink of sheep, he smelled of perfume like me."

Earlier this year, Romanian hunting law was modified to introduce severe fines to shepherds who didn't comply with the strict rules about grazing and sheepdogs, after claims that the dogs were disturbing local hunters. The two MPs who brought about the clampdown were members of Romaina's Hunting and Fishing Association.

According to the law, shepherds could only have three sheep dogs working in mountain areas, two in hills and only one in fields. "Where am I going to find three shepherds who can replace my dogs to stand guard next to the sheep all night, like army soldiers?" Ionuț Donache, a shepherd who owns 290 sheep in Teleorman county, told VICE. "I used to have 470 sheep. How can you convince 12 acres of sheep to move using only one dog?"

As well as limiting the number of dogs used for herding sheep, the laws also banned grazing from December to April. "The main issue with this law is that between the 6th December and the 24th April, I am not allowed to take my sheep grazing, on my land," said Ionuț Donache.

A government spokesman on Wednesday said the measures were designed to protect hunters and the local environment, but had been temporarily lifted and a permanent solution would be found by April.

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The organisers of the protest, the National Federation of Agricultural Unions Agrostar, were fined 3,225 pounds for violently blocking traffic and the entrance to the Parliament. The senator, however, who has a history of fighting with protestors, received no fine.

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