Very high populations of foxes and mongooses threaten endangered species, ecosystem equilibrium, and smallholder farmers, hunters have argued. In the meantime, Parliament has debated the end of fox hunting.
More than 120,000 licensed Portuguese hunters are now authorised, starting this Tuesday, to hunt foxes and mongooses. The hunting season lasts from now until February and, according to industry associations, is essential in controlling animal populations through hunting.
A year ago, on the 4th of October, the Assembly of the Republic passed four PAN, BE and ENP bills to ban fox hunting and tail-hunting – with PSD, PS, CDS-PP and PCP voting against it. But local hunters have presented a clear argument for why they believe the practice to be essential.
“The foxes are raiding the chicken coops. They’re hungry, they go everywhere.” claims Jacinto Amaro, from FENCAÇA – the Portuguese Hunting Federation, which represents about 1,000 concession holders and around 100,000 of the 250,000 registered hunters.
“The main danger posed by foxes lies with small livestock producers of chickens and lambs. With extensive systems predominating in Portugal, sheep are on pastures at night, and can become lost, and those in the early days of their life become very easy targets for foxes “, continues João Carvalho.
In 2018, in parallel with the proposals debated in Parliament to prohibit fox hunting, a public petition which reached around 20,000 citizens’ signatures ran in their defence. At the time, the Secretary-General of the National Association of Rural Animal Owners, Game Management and Biodiversity (ANPC) said “it was possible to prove to MPs, on the basis of a technical and scientific assessment, that the ban would compromise other species and activities. The impact of foxes on production of poultry and small ruminants (sheep and goats) is very large if this work is not carried out. “
The Ecologist Party (PEV), a coalition partner of the PCP, says it intended, with the bill to remove foxes and mongooses from the list of game species, “because they have no gastronomic interest to the public”.
“It makes no sense to kill a species for killing. There is speculation about the populations of foxes and mongooses. There are no concrete censuses about the evolution of either one population or another.” accuses Victor Cavaco of the National Council, and the National Executive Committee of the PEV.
“The imbalance in species populations has more to do with how we interfere with the balance of ecosystems. The way man is managing the territory is what promotes population growth or decline. Hunting has some reason to be, to provide food, not for sport.
Moreover, João Carvalho has criticized parties and deputies committed to removing foxes and mongooses from hunting lists (species that can be legally hunted). “These opinions are based on some animalistic radicalism, and the lack of knowledge of how ecology and natural systems work. Hunting, not being the only one, is an instrument to avert an environmental disaster.”