Farming News - French farmers demand wolf attack meeting
French farmers demand wolf attack meeting
A French farming union representing uplands farmers has called for an urgent meeting with tourism, farming and ecology ministers over the country's burgeoning wolf population, which, the union claims, is responsible for untenable levels of predation on livestock.
"Farmers' troubles have reached their peak," farming union FNSEA declared in a statement this week. The union is seeking talks with ministers involved in France's wolf reintroduction programme to establish "effective solutions" to wolf attacks on farm animals, which it claims "have plunged hill farmers into a living hell."
The union produced figures suggesting wolf attacks have increased year-on-year in France since the turn of the millennium; 1,500 were reported in 2000, 3,800 in 2005 and 5,000 in 2012. Figures from France's National Office of Hunting and Wild Animals (ONCFS) suggest the trend has continued into 2013. FNSEA claimed the rise in attacks is the result of "uncontrolled" increases in the wolf population and a "lax state policy," under which successive 'wolf plans' aimed at reducing predation have been ineffective.
FNSEA added, "The means of protection offered to farmers are ridiculous and have clear limitations – farmers cannot ensure the safety of their herds." The union is demanding more effective sampling of wolf populations, with the aim of increasing the number of wolves that are legally allowed to be killed each year. Livestock producers in the French Alps claim efforts to protect herds and scare wolves, such as bringing animals into enclosures at night and using mountain dogs to deter the predators, have not worked as had been hoped.
Farmers claim monitoring of wolf populations has been poor. Government officials in the mountainous South-East revealed in July that they have considered hiring hunters from Eastern Europe or the United States, who have experience of killing wolves, to 'control' populations, after attempts earlier in the year to conduct a sanctioned wolf hunt failed.
Under new guidelines introduced in May, the number of wolves that can legally be killed in France each gnyear was doubled to 24. However, having only been reintroduced in 1992, France's wolf population is not thought to number more than 250. Even so, evidence suggests the range and number of wolves is increasing. FNSEA contends that this poses "a threat to the mountain economy".
The French government published the latest national wolf plan in May 2013. The four year plan deals with scientific study of the animals, compensation for farmers whose herds are attacked and means of reducing the contact between farmers, their livestock and wolves. The French government maintains that its main goal "remains to guarantee the protection of wolves on the French territory while restricting their impact on [farming]."
A government spokesperson pointed out that wolves have been shown to prefer wild prey to domestic animals, but acknowledged that they will attack domestic animals, particularly sheep and goats. Research conducted in Europe, North America and Asia in recent years has shown that ecosystems which retain their large carnivorous predators tend to function better than those where these animals have been eradicated, as is the case in Britain; the compensation available to farmers who suffer wolf attacks in France is aimed in part at reducing the pressure of poaching, which poses a threat to the country's relatively young wolf population.