Romanian riot police fire tear gas at protesting shepherds

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Romanian riot police fire tear gas at protesting shepherds
Shepherds run after breaking through riot police lines during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Shepherds talk during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Riot policemen restrain a shepherd during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Riot policemen try to prevent shepherds from scaling the parliament fence during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Shepherds try to amplify the sound of horns during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A shepherd takes part in a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Riot police stand in front of shepherds during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Riot police restrain a shepherd during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A shepherd runs along with riot police outside the parliament building during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A shepherd runs holding a toy dog backdropped by the parliament building in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. Banner reads "I don't want to stay at the sheepfold - I will only stay in parliament". (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Riot policemen restrain a shepherd during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Shepherds push fences as they charge to the parliament building during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Shepherds clash with riot police as they charge to the parliament building during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Shepherds run as they charge for the parliament building after breaking through police lines during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A shepherd whistles after breaking through riot police lines during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from grazing sheep during the winter.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Riot police restrain a protesting shepherd outside the parliament building during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Shepherds stand during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through fences into the grounds of Romaniaâs Parliament, scuffled with riot police who fired tear gas, to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from gazing sheep during the winter. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Romanian shepherds take part in a protest in front of the Romanian Parliament headquarters in Bucharest December 15, 2015. More than 3,000 shepherds gathered next to the Parliament Palace to protest against a recently approved law that reduces the number of dogs that animal breeders can use to protect groves and prohibits establishing, maintaining or harvesting crops without ensuring the protection of wildlife hunting. / AFP / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
Romanian shepherders demonstrate in front of Romanian Parliament headquarters in Bucharest on December 15, 2015 to protest against a recently approved law that reduces the number of dogs used by animal breeders and prohibits establishing, maintaining or harvesting crops without ensuring the protection of wildlife hunting. According to the law a shepherd can have no more than three dogs to watch the herd. / AFP / DANIEL MIHAILESCU (Photo credit should read DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)
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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — More than 1,000 angry shepherds broke through police lines onto the grounds of Romania's Parliament on Tuesday to protest a law that regulates the number of sheepdogs they can use and bans them from grazing sheep during the winter.

Riot police fired tear gas at the shepherds, some of whom were dressed in floor-length sheepskins and blowing horns, to keep them from charging at the Parliament building. There was a tense standoff between hundreds of riot police, some mounted on horses, and the shepherds. They didn't bring their dogs to the demonstration.

Farmers are angry about a recent law that will limit the number of dogs that can guard their sheep and also at a ban on grazing from December to April. They say it is an attack on their rights and centuries of sheep-rearing traditions in rural Romania. The law says that shepherds can use a single sheepdog for sheep grazing on the plain and a maximum of three for mountain flocks. If shepherds flout the law, extra dogs can be shot.

"This law is an aberration. It is unconstitutional," Ionica Nechifor, general secretary of the Romovis sheep farming federation, told The Associated Press. "They are trying to take away our sheep farms."

Sheep farming forms the backbone of rural Romania, home to some 10 million sheep and 1.5 million goats. Supporters of the law say it will protect animals targeted by hunters, such as wild boar and deer, from the Carpathian shepherd dog, a large indigenous canine. They also say that keeping the sheep off the pastures will protect the environment. Hunting is a popular pastime among Romania's elite.

About 4,000 shepherds traveled from rural parts of Romania for the protest, some taking buses about 500 kilometers (300 miles) from western Romania.

"We can't live without sheepdogs, which scare off the wild animals," said Traian Nica, a 49-year-old shepherd. "We want our rights back."

Grigore Popa, 68, waved a big stick and shouted: "I was born among the sheep and we will cut lawmakers' heads off."

Government spokesman Dan Suciu said Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos had been called Tuesday by the chairman of the Senate and asked to modify the law. Ciolos is trying to find a legal solution to satisfy the demands, Suciu said.

Agriculture Minister Achim Irimescu said Tuesday he supported the shepherds' demands, in an interview with Digi24 television station.

"We have to change the law. It is urgent," he said.


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