Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Driving The Rooster Of Pollensa Home

It was Willie Dixon who provided one of the means by which The Rolling Stones demonstrated that they were originally a blues group. In Little Red Rooster, Mick, as had been the case with Willie himself, pleaded for anyone seeing his little red rooster to drive it home. This was because, as Mick and Willie informed us, there had been no peace in the farmyard since the little red rooster had been gone.

The little red rooster of Pollensa is now typically driven home. Or at least to a finca belonging to the conqueror of the Sant Antoni pine on top of which the rooster (some say cock) had been too lazy to "crow for day" because it had been stuck in a bag. Well, it's always possible that it had crowed earlier on, but by seven in the evening, it would indeed have been too lazy. Once upon a time, the cock would have been driven home and ended up dead meat to be served on a plate. Not now. The cock has his own finca yard home, unless another cock from on top of the Sant Antoni pine is brought along to share the same living space and promptly kills him. Which has happened in the past.

The fact that the cock is now typically allowed to grow and crow old gracefully hasn't persuaded opponents of the pine climb that all is right in an animal-welfare style. The Alternativa per Pollença party, perfectly capable of starting a political fight - and often with very good justification - in a bag empty of a cock or anything else, has registered a motion to be debated at the next council meeting. It says that the use of a cock aloft the pine in the Plaça Vella each Sant Antoni Day in January breaches the 1992 animal-protection law.

The party objects to the use of a cock for purposes of "simple entertainment", observing that it can suffer if it is thrown or falls from the top of the pine. But the objection is based more on a point of law, and it is the one contained in the 1992 act under which traditions involving animals are defined. In itself, this is a curious approach to setting law, a seemingly arbitrary longevity established as a threshold for defining tradition or not. The law states that an act, such as the use of a cock at the Sant Antoni fiesta, can be deemed an exemption if there is evidence of one hundred years uninterrupted use. If there isn't evidence, then the involvement of live animals on fiesta occasions is proscribed.

This is the situation in Can Picafort. The use of real ducks for the mid-August swim was finally stopped ten years ago, the town hall in Santa Margalida having consistently ignored the law. Only when legal action was being taken seriously did the town hall comply. There are those in Santa Margalida, and not just at the town hall, who want the law amended and have proposed that the 100-year threshold is reduced, the point being that the earliest evidence of the ducks and swim comes from the 1930s.

As far as the cock of Pollensa is concerned, there is little documentary evidence to back up how long the cock has been a feature of the pine climb. Indeed there is little evidence that shows when the climb started (with or without a cock). A newspaper report from the early twentieth century appears to be one of the few actual references.

The Alternativa is pursuing a line that it adopted ten years ago. On its Urxella blog in March 2007, it referred to an official complaint lodged with the Balearic government by ANPBA, the national association for the protection and welfare of animals, and also to an initiative by the town hall itself (in 2004) to prevent actions that cause suffering to animals. Proceedings were to have been initiated to withdraw the cock, but these were not seen through, the suggestion having been that it would have been a vote loser.

In 2010, it would seem that the town hall was in fact fined for breaching the animal-protection law and that there is also an open case for the same reason that is outstanding since 2015. At the start of that year, the Baldea animal-rights group proposed to the town hall that the cock should be substituted by a rag-doll version. It set out seven ways in which the law was being violated, referring, for example, to "unnatural treatment" by suspending the cock at a height of some twenty metres on top of the pine. To authorise such "illegality" would warrant a charge of abuse of public office.

A hundred years or not, why should longevity have anything to do with it? Should the little red rooster stay in the farmyard and never need to be driven home?

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