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Just to point out that most shepherds are employees, even if some farmers run a kind of shift system where they take turns to go up and do a stint of a week or two. That if a shepherd uses a 4x4, at least that means someone who is using one for good reason in an understandable context, that of rough mountain tracks, and not farting around narrow city streets in one.
I don't know what goat cheese is doing in there. Has nothing to do with shepherds keeping mountain sheep.
As for subsidies, I don't know what Spain does with regard to mountain farmers. I doubt if you'd be right to suppose shepherds live off them (any more than off tourism...), though they are part of the income mix. I know we're going to have to discuss agri-subsidies here at ET one of these days. I'm building up strength for it. One of these days...
Other sectors get subsidies too, as you know. I don't think people get the notion they have some kind of individual right to demand a particular kind of personal behaviour from the recipients. If Security at Airbus offices in Blagnac gets nasty with me because I don't want to do as a sign asks me, I might legitimately be annoyed by the unpleasant manner employed, but would I shout: "You get subsidies! You get subsidies!" ? (I know, it's not an exact equivalent. But all the same city-dwellers seem to conceive a particular hatred of the rural world because of subsidies, that doesn't even cross their minds elsewhere).
This was in France, not in Spain (I corrected the "40km south of the Spanish border", it is "north").
I'm in favour of subsidies in whatever field, for instance for people whose job depends on a lot of external factors (such as shepherds). I mention them specifically here because in this case the recipient wants the donor to get off "his" mountain, yet he doesn't own the land ... if he did, it would be a different story. In fact, the State also pours in money to maintain the mountains as they are, to maintain the fauna and flora as they are, to develop B&B's and Guest Houses ... not only for his herd, and I am thus entitled to visit these mountains as much as he his to herd his sheep/goats there.
So repeating this argument and putting it back in context: if security at Airbus holds you back, it's because they own the place, it's their right. But a mountain man has no right to tell me to fuck off to "my country" when I'm walking on public land (which is the same as his, except unlike him I don't vote Front National).
So like I said, I am all in favour of subsidies, as long as people know where they stand. Maybe the government should attribute mountain land to shepherds, it would make it a lot easier for everyone. Then it would be their land and no one would walk over it with dogs. Nor would I then mention subsidies ...
Some important conclusions:
First of all, the study concludes that stray dogs (chiens errants) are very rare.
11.5% of herders experience at least one dog attack per year, 21% less than one attack per year (on average). During the 4 year duration of this study, 74% did not experience a single attack. 74 + 21 => 95% of herders almost never experience dog attacks (the study reaches this conclusion, not me).
However, 70% of attacks concentrate on 5% of herders, who are, quote: "traumatized".
It concludes that there are however a greater number of herd displacements due to dogs, which concludes that dogs not on a leach are a hassle more than a danger.
Finally, 90% of the dogs identified in sheep attacks are residential dogs from surrounding areas (10% are the dogs of trekkers). Attacks caused by stray dogs are extremely rare. So maybe our shepherd should focus first on people in his own "country" ...
Note: the same website states that tourists should tie their dogs when approaching a herd because it can make the herd panic.
The fact that you can see animals or not isn't necessarily a criterion. Just round a mountain flank there may be five hundred sheep, and your dog may get there first. Up in the rocks, heads down into the shade, there may be a number of sheep that a doggie movement and bark may set on the move over potentially dangerous ground.
To be honest, I've often walked in the mountains with a dog (or friends' dog) off the leash. But if the dog's obedient, he should be kept walking close to his owners. If he's not obedient, or not trained, he should be on a leash. There are heaps of web references to advice to mountain walkers to keep their dogs on the leash in the alpage (the cow and sheep parts of the mountains), along with all the places where it is obligatory (some national parks) or dogs completely forbidden (other national parks and nature reserves).
Now you really are going to piss me off. What do you know about this man? First he's living off tourism, then he's living off your taxes, then he's living off goat's cheese sales, then he's driving a 4x4, then he's spending the winter in a summer hut, then he's letting sheep shit in a mountain stream, then he's got one of his own sheepdogs off a leash (!), now he's National Front...
Sorry, Alex, a whole string of idle suppositions based on ignorance.
To cut it short: the polluting tourist from another country swipes at the 4x4-driving and front-national-voting shepherd.
None of this would have happened if I had told him "ok, sure my friend will tie his dog, and now how about a bonjour with a smile?" instead of reacting to his agressiveness with a swipe at his dog without a leash (this is standard me: I once told a hostess at an airport to make the pilot get off the plane so that I could have a seat, after the airline had cancelled my mega-confirmed booking).
Anyway, you didn't get off "his" mountain, did you?
In our group of friends, one was actively defending the shepherd (he's a teacher), the girl was actively recollecting her childhood in that very region (how much she disliked regionalists), my friend with the dog didn't say anything, and held his dog on a leash most of the time (only let him loose when we were out of sight of the shepherd, very near the top) and immediately put it back on a leash as soon as he saw goats/sheep. And I, well, I was disappointed at myself for letting that "why isn't your dog on a leash" slip my mouth, and angry at him for getting me angry, or something like that (I don't like it when strangers don't get along).
We also theorized about the shepherd having a sniper rifle pointed at us (to see if we were keeping the dog on a leash) and about the legislation if he shot my friend's dog (example: "I think it would be considered as breaking something, but you could always argue that you're depressed, and ask for reperations, which he wouldn't be able to pay").
Just another point about the mountains -- mountain stream water is always dodgy, it's better avoided. Which means you need to find springs. There's always one somewhere near a hut, because it's a major reason for siting the hut there. Sometimes springs are well-tramped around and possibly organized with a pipe or something, because the water's known to be good. Sometimes you just have to be patient and look around.
Regionalism, hmm. They're not powerfully regionalist, in my experience, in the Ariège. At least, you're not from a different region. I think it's more a deepening misunderstanding between the majority of the population, city and suburb dwellers, and what's left of the old rural world. In which the latter feel defensive. And I'm not even going into the bear thing... ;)
We actually thought it would be logical for him to have one (to fend off predators?). But we obviously are very poorly informed about this kind of lifestyle.
Then we imagined that he would confiscate our mushrooms (we found tons higher up), which is one of the reasons why we went down another road (the other being evident).
I agree that there is mistunderstanding between us city-dwellers and him.
I won't write any letter at all, because I'm quite sure his reaction was at least 51% prompted by ours. If I had just thought for a second that this guy was in a very bad mood or tired of repeat offenders, I wouldn't have taken his loud language (and no reply to my "bonjour") badly. I would have shut up and walked on. And my friend anyhow had already tied his dog, so not much point in going through all this ...
But when I met that shepherd, I had already noticed that inhabitants of Rouze were always really nice to us when they first met us at my friend's grandfather's house ("ahh it's nice that the old house is occupied, so how is your grandfather's back problem, and ahhh say hello to him ahhh"), but not always so friendly when they first met us in the forest looking for mushrooms. Not really unfriendly either, but they would look at you for a few seconds, straight in the eyes, before responding to your "bonjour", which you would always say first.
About this, I noticed on the way back to Toulouse on the Canal, that people you cross (cyclists, strollers, joggers), stop saying hello about 20km out of Toulouse. Before that everyone says "bonjour". And at about 10km from Toulouse, they don't even look at you any more, so you don't even bother to try to see if eventually it would be possible to perhaps sort of say "bonjour".
The reason for all this, which didn't use to exist, is au-to-mo-biles. People flock to the best mushroom woods in their cars. On-the-fly market salesmen fill up vans and scoot off to the cities to sell at a high profit. This has led to conflict and stricter rules about who can pick and who can't.
Generally, in mountain areas you can only reach on foot don't have these problems. A shepherd would have to be the owner of the land to give you any trouble.
A shepherd has no more right to shoot predators (protected species all) than anyone else. Pretty much all shepherds have guns, however. With the bear controversy, I should think they all have.
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