French farmers will 'get rifles out' ifwolf cull blocked long-term

16th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Aug 14 (AFP) - The way was cleared to start France's first wolf cull in seven decades on Saturday, but the battle raged on between conservationists who filed a last-minute restraining order and angry farmers vowing to stop at nothing to protect their flocks.

MARSEILLE, France, Aug 14 (AFP) - The way was cleared to start France's first wolf cull in seven decades on Saturday, but the battle raged on between conservationists who filed a last-minute restraining order and angry farmers vowing to stop at nothing to protect their flocks.

By publishing an order in an official gazette, the government got round a legal challenge by an environmental group which had succeeded in temporarily blocking the cull.

"The farmers are desperate. Some have wolf attacks twice a week. They're at the end of their tether and ready to take desperate action," Yves Feydy, president of a sheep farmers association in the Drome, told AFP.

"The situation is serious and I already told authorities there could even be people killed over this," he said.

France last month authorised the cull in three departments in the Alps in south-eastern France, saying up to four wolves could be shot by year's end if attacks on sheep continued.

Exterminated in France before World War II, the wolf was reintroduced in 1992 in the Mercantour national park on France's border with Italy, and its population has since increased by 20 percent - farmers say 30 percent - a year.

Sheep farmers who bring their flocks to graze on the Alpine slopes during the summer months complain of the devastation caused by the predator, with more than 2,150 sheep killed in 2003, according to official figures.

As fate would have it, another 200 perished late last week when they jumped off a cliff. Farmers again say they were chased by wolves, but police say it is too early to tell and that none of the animals showed bite wounds.

The Association for the Protection of Wild Species (ASPAS), which has led the fight against the cull, says it would endanger a species protected under European law.

But farmers are still unhappy. They insist the government has not gone far enough and on Saturday gave Paris a one-week ultimatum to act or they will "get out their guns".

"There are now more than 120 wolves in the Alpine region, while the government says there are only 39. Killing only four is a joke," said Feydy, insisting the cull should be extended to other areas than just the Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes.

The wolf is a protected species under European law and a cull can only be organised under strict conditions that do not endanger the survival of the colony.

With pressure from both sides, the government is squeezed in the middle.

Already, it backed down from initial plans to allow five to seven animals killed at ASPAS' insistence.

Now the farmers are turning up the heat.

"If by August 20, the government hasn't proposed an action plan to remove the wolves from grazing areas, we'll start protecting our flocks ourselves and the herders will get the rifles out against the wolves," Feydy said.

"We don't want to see the wolves exterminated, but we want them confined to certain areas," he said.

The environmentalists, meanwhile, want to see the wolf move beyond its enclave in eastern France.

ASPAS went on the offensive again Friday, filing a motion with the State Council, France's highest constitutional authority, against both the cull and the ministerial order allowing it.

The cull, it said, could "threaten the survival of the wolf population" which already falls short of that in neighbouring states.

"Spain has 2,000 wolves and there are 700 in the Italian Alps, constituting stable populations that live side-by-side without problem with local sheep," it said.

"French wolves are far from that level."

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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