Thousands of angry shepherds storm Romanian parliament

A Romanian shepherd wearing traditional thick sheepskinis chased by a riot policeman after entering the Parliament garden, in front of Romania's Parliament Palace, during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, on Dec 15, 2015.
A Romanian shepherd wearing traditional thick sheepskinis chased by a riot policeman after entering the Parliament garden, in front of Romania's Parliament Palace, during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, on Dec 15, 2015. PHOTO: EPA
A Romanian shepherd (centre) jumps off while his colleagues wave flags and shout slogans after climbing the protective fence surrounding parliament's yard, in front of Romania's Parliament Palace (background), during a protest in Bucharest, Romania,
A Romanian shepherd (centre) jumps off while his colleagues wave flags and shout slogans after climbing the protective fence surrounding parliament's yard, in front of Romania's Parliament Palace (background), during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, on Dec 15, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

BUCHAREST (AFP) - Nearly 4,000 shepherds stormed Romania's parliament on Tuesday (Dec 15), furious over a new law that limits the number of dogs they can keep to protect their flocks.

One riot officer fired tear gas at the shepherds, some of whom were dressed in sheepskins and brandishing cowbells. Several dozen protesters scaled the walls of the parliamentary palace in central Bucharest, while others forced open one of the doors to its courtyard.

A new law recently came into force stating that herds of sheep can be guarded by only a single dog in lowlands, and by a maximum of three in mountainous areas.

The legislation is designed to stop sheepdogs from scaring away game to the annoyance of local hunters. The law also bans the grazing of sheep between the beginning of December and the end of April, with fines of up to 35 euros (S$54).

"We can't keep sheep with only one or two dogs for a whole flock," Dumitru Dima, one of the protesting shepherds, told AFP.

"They also want to fine us if we leave sheep out on pastureland after Dec 6. What are we supposed to do?"

After brief scuffles with the police, several of the shepherds entered the parliament to discuss their complaints with members of the agriculture commission, while the rest waited calmly outside to hear the result of the negotiations.

Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, a former EU agriculture commissioner, has promised to work to find a solution with the shepherds.