28th May 2023

EU concerned about Swedish wolves and French hamsters

  • Swedish hunters claim shooting wolves protects them from inbreeding (Photo: Caninest)

France stands to lose a case at the European of Justice over its neglect of the 'Great Hamster of Alsace', a species facing extinction, while Sweden is about to be taken to court by the Euopean Commission for allowing wolf hunting, in breach of EU law.

France's agro-environmental measures to protect the endangered hamsters "are incomplete at this stage," according to a legal opinion of the European Court of Justice published on Thursday (20 January) and seen by AFP.

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If the judges in Luxembourg follow the non-binding opinion, Paris stands to be slapped with a multi-million-euro fine for not protecting the endangered species.

Commission figures show that numbers of the 'Cricetus cricetus' hamster have fallen from 1,167 in 2001 to 161 in 2007, mainly due to a change in crops - with French farmers preferring the more lucrative maize to the forage crops the animal is feeding on.

Paris has in fact given subsidies to farmers to grow forage crops or wheat, but the commission said it the measure was insufficient.

In a similar case, announced on Monday, the EU executive said it may take Sweden to court for giving licences to kill wolves, in breach of the bloc's wildlife protection laws.

"I regret that Sweden has begun the licensed hunting of wolves," environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.

The Swedish environmental protection agency said that between 15 January and 15 February, licensed hunters would be permitted to shoot 20 wolves, with thousands of hunters already having killed 16 of them.

Stockholm maintains that this measure is "in line with EU rules," despite criticism last year when it re-introduced wolf hunting after a 46-year-long break. A 2009 decision by the Swedish parliament limits the wolf population to 210 animals, spread across in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year, for a period of five years by issuing hunting permits in regions where wolves have recently reproduced.

The Swedish Hunters Association says this measure is saving the wolves from inbreeding and rejected EU's concerns.

"Basically what we're trying to do is that we try to save the wolf with hunting," Daniel Lidne, a spokesman for the group was quoted as saying by ABC News. He also said the EU does not seem to know how well the monitoring of the wolves and the hunt is working in Sweden.

But to animal rights activists, who also tried to disrupt the hunt by going into the forest with firecrackers to frighten the wolves away, the EU statement is a welcome development.

"The noose is tightening around Sweden," said Mikael Karlsson, head of Sweden's Association for the Protection of Nature.


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