European Commission takes aim at Sweden over wolf hunt
The month-long wolf hunt has divided Sweden - and prompted many European conservationists to accuse Sweden of undue animal cruelty in the name of sport.
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Daniel Ligne, deputy game manager for the Swedish Hunters Association, says the hunt is needed to stop inbreeding among the country’s isolated packs. He also brushed aside the Commission’s legal threats, saying the flap with the commissioner is nothing more than a miscommunication.Skip to next paragraph
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“The hunt is only to make room for new genes,” says Mr. Ligne, adding that Sweden has extensive records on the existing packs and can tailor the hunt to areas where only inbred wolves are targeted.
Strong reactions against the hunt
But opposition has been fierce. The Swedish Carnivore Association collected roughly 30,000 signatures calling for an end to the hunt on their website. The group along with three other nature conservation groups filed a complaint in March with the EU Environment Commission in hopes of ending the hunt.
Ann Dahlerus, secretary general for the association, says the wolf population is too small and vulnerable and that there is no legal basis to permit the hunt. Besides, she added, many Swedes are against the practice.
“The majority of people in Sweden are in favor of wolves,” she says. “The population needs to grow, period.”
In a statement, the EU Commission said it will “launch a formal infringement procedure” against the Nordic country for permitting the culling of 20 gray wolves this year in central Sweden. If Sweden fails to assuage the commission’s concern, the authority may then refer the case to the European Court of Justice.
The EU’s involvement comes at the behest of European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik who has voiced reservations about Sweden’s rationale for the hunt. Mr. Potocnik said in an earlier statement he had been in contact with the Swedish government since June but failed to receive adequate answers to his questions.
Europe's protected wolves
Wolves are a legally protected species under the EU’s Habitats Directive, which oversees the conservation and management of Europe’s wildlife and natural habitats.
Potocnik’s spokesman, Joe Hennon, says EU countries are allowed to hunt wolves but only when they threaten livestock or humans.
"What is not permitted is just to shoot wolves,” he says.
Sweden is not the first Nordic country to sanction wolf hunting and incur criticism for doing so. Norway authorized the culling of wolves in 2001 and 2005 – under protests from the Swedish government – saying the population was growing and spreading too fast. Controlled wolf hunting is allowed in northern Finland after the country won an exemption for the practice in 2007.