Spain's livestock farmers raise alarm over rise in wolf attacks

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Spain's livestock farmers raise alarm over rise in wolf attacks
Spain's total ban on wolf hunting has delighted some and dismayed others, notably in the livestock farming heartlands of the northwest -- a paradise for the Iberian wolf. The ban, which came in force on September 22, 2021, brings northern Spain, where controlled hunting has been permitted, in line with other areas of the country where it has long been prohibited. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Spanish livestock farmers on Wednesday raised the alarm over increasing wolf attacks on their herds, demanding the government reverse a 2021 ban on hunting this protected species.


Last year, farmers across Spain recorded 12,898 attacks, up from 10,560 a year earlier, equating to a 20 percent increase, the COAG farmers' union said, citing data collected from regions with the highest number of wolves.

"There are 35 wolf attacks every day," COAG said in a statement that blamed the rising number of attacks on the hunting ban which was brought in exactly two years ago by the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.


Until then, four northern regions -- Cantabria, Castilla y Leon, Asturias and Galicia, where the vast majority of wolves roam -- had practised controlled hunting to keep the numbers down under rules allowing them to cull a certain percentage of them.

But the government decided to extend the hunting ban that was in place across the rest of Spain, following similar moves in France and Italy.

At the time, Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera said the aim was "to preserve the coexistence between farmers and the Iberian wolf", saying the move was based on scientists' recommendations.

But COAG said including wolves on the list of protected species was "a mistake" which the government should "put right immediately", pointing to the European Commission's recent statement about modifying the protected status of wolves.

A woman holds a picture of a sheep attacked by a wolf during a protest against wolves and bears protection in front of the Ministry of Ecological Transition in Madrid on June 09, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

Earlier this month, Brussels launched a review of laws protecting wolves with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warning they were threatening livestock and perhaps even people.

"The concentration of wolf packs in some European regions has become a real danger for livestock and potentially also for humans," she said on September 4, urging local communities, scientists and officials to submit data on wolf numbers and their impact by September 22.

The move drew sharp criticism from ecological groups such as the WWF which accused her of spreading "misleading information regarding wolves in Europe".

"The claim that the concentration of wolf packs has become a danger for livestock and potentially for humans is not based on science. In Europe, the wolf is not considered to be dangerous for humans," it said in an open letter to the EU chief on September 11.

Under the EU Habitat Directive, first adopted in 1992, the wolf enjoys protected status but the question of their number has long been the subject of dispute between herders and conservation groups.


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