The EU Habitats Directive was put through a Fitness Check by the Commission in 2016 and was found to be fit for purpose. Its effectiveness is soon to be questioned in an upcoming motion for a resolution which will be voted on in the AGRI committee on the 28th of February and voted in a plenary session on the 7th March. The cause for such questioning stems from farmers' concern over the safety of their livestock. Mr Humberto Delgado Rosa from the European Commission reassured the Intergroup today that the Commission has no intention of opening up the Habitats Directive and solutions to potential problems can be found via alternative means.
Mr Jean-Marc Landry, a biologist and wolf expert, gave a detailed presentation exploring the various solutions he has discovered after carrying out extensive research on the topic. He focussed on a region in the southern French Alps where Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGDs) are protecting flocks of sheep. France has one of the highest attacks on wolves in Europe and Mr Landry showed footage he had taken of wolf attacks on these flocks. LGDs were shown chasing the wolves away at a speed of up to 45kmph, demonstrating their efficiency and capability to keep the wolves at bay. So why are Member States considering culling wolves as the solution? Following such an informative presentation on alternative options many MEPs had the same question.
MEP Caroline Roose (Greens/EFA, France) drew our attention to the fact that with the appropriate funds there would be better support for shepherds to protect their flocks using the examples presented by Mr Landry. According to Mr Delgado Rosa there are many success stories, where wolf attacks were reduced by up to 96%. He highlighted that the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) fund is well tuned for dealing with this issue, as it cannot be said that the CAP fund is not a fund for biodiversity. Responding to a question from MEP Pascal Durand (Renew, France) Mr Deglado Rossa stressed that culling wolves is not the solution. Furthermore culling wolves can worsen the problem, for example if you kill the alpha male, the pack may cause more damage.
In a similar vein, MEP Anja Hazekamp (The Left, The Netherlands) called on her fellow MEPs to take action in light of the upcoming AGRI Committee Motion for a resolution to weaken the Habitats Directive and rob the wolf of its protected status. She stressed that this resolution goes against the competency of the AGRI Committee and she encouraged her colleagues to stand up in their respective groups to ensure the correct procedure within the European Parliament is upheld. Furthermore she expanded the discussion to options outside of Livestock Guarding Dogs. Alternatives would include electric fences as well as putting cattle back into shelter at night.
Sadly, the wolf is painted as a villainous creature in most European literature and culture. A wolf has not killed a human in Europe in over 100 years and in terms of livestock attacks, a harmonious coexistence can be found. MEP Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, Denmark) reminded us of how the wolf is portrayed in the Jungle Book, a clever, caring mother wolf. We must not forget that the protection of the wolf reflects our European values to protect natural habitats and ensure the continued balance to biodiversity within our environment. Now is the time to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the wolf and the different opportunities available to livestock farmers for the continued protection of their flock.