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The European Union is considering a plan to reintroduce wolf hunting in western Europe.

Lawyers warn that the European Commission’s proposal to decrease protection for wolves could potentially lead to their hunting in western Europe, posing a threat to effective environmental laws.

The committee suggests that European Union countries change the wolf’s classification from “strictly protected” to “protected” under the Berne Convention. This comes after the species has made a comeback in several countries where it was previously extinct for decades, such as Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

In 2022, a wolf in Germany killed Dolly, the pony of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the commission. She stated that the return of wolves is positive for biodiversity in Europe. However, there is concern about the high concentration of wolf packs in certain regions, posing a threat to livestock. To address this issue, local authorities are requesting more flexibility in managing these critical wolf concentrations.

The commission’s plan to reduce the level of protection for wolves comes after strong pressure from agricultural organizations and popular politicians who have expressed opposition to the increasing number of wolves.

The commission’s proposal was met with criticism from conservationists and environmentalists who deemed it “unusual” and lacking scientific support. Over 300 conservation organizations sent a letter to von der Leyen this week expressing that the current scientific evaluation of the wolf population in western Europe does not warrant a modification in their protection status.

According to estimates, there are currently about 20,000 wolves in western Europe. However, out of the nine transboundary wolf populations in the EU, only three have achieved a favorable conservation status. This implies that if wolves were to be killed or hunted, the population would not be able to maintain itself.

A recent survey conducted in 10 European Union countries revealed that 68% of people living in rural areas support maintaining strong safeguards for the wolf. Additionally, 65% of farmers remain in favor of strict protection for the animal.

Agata Szafraniuk, the leader of wildlife conservation at the legal nonprofit ClientEarth, expressed concern about the commission’s plan to make minor changes to current laws, as it could establish a risky standard for safeguarding the environment and upholding the principles of justice.

She expressed concern about the proposal being introduced in an unconventional manner. Making changes to laws only when it is convenient sets a negative precedent and calls into question the level of protection for nature. If this proposal is approved, it would send a terrible message about how the commission handles effective nature policies and laws.

These laws are in place to protect not just wildlife and its habitats, but also the rights of European societies to a safe and healthy environment for their future.

According to Léa Badoz from the Eurogroup for Animals, the European Commission is going back on their previous promises without any scientific evidence. Badoz believes that this proposal is a calculated and political decision that brings into question its true intentions and adherence to authentic policy goals. Badoz urges member states to take into account scientific data and the strong backing of rural communities.

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The EU and other parties to the Berne convention must reach a consensus before altering the wolf’s protection status. If a decision is made, the protection level for wolves can be reduced at the EU level.

In 1992, the EU implemented the habitats directive, granting the wolf the most extensive legal protection. Conservation experts believe this has been crucial in the species’ resurgence in western Europe.

According to the regulation, wolves deemed to pose a threat to livestock can still be removed, but some EU countries, like Sweden and Finland, are disputing the interpretation of EU laws by reducing wolf populations to significantly lower levels than their natural state.

Source: theguardian.com