January 27, 2011

EU Pursuing Legal Action Against Sweden’s Wolf Hunt

The European Commission launched legal action against Sweden on Thursday for allowing hunters to shoot 20 wolves this year.

The European Union's executive arm raised concerns about Sweden's wolf policy, including the licensed hunting of a threatened species and the "arbitrary ceiling" of 2010 wolves that was set for the animal's population.

Sweden opened a hunting season on January 15 that allowed hunters to kill 20 wolves.  The commission said that over 6,700 hunters participated in the hunt.

The Swedish environmental protection agency said that as of Wednesday, 18 of the 20 wolves had been killed.

The hunt follows a 2009 decision by parliament to limit the wolf population to 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year, for a period of five years by issuing hunters permits in regions where wolves have reproduced.

Sweden resumed wolf hunting last year when it set a quota of 27 wolves.  It was the first wolf hunt since 1964.

Wolves have reproduced in the last three decades after almost disappearing, threatening sheep and reindeer as prey.

The European Commission decided to open a formal infringement procedure, which can lead to a case before the European Court of Justice. 

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren on Thursday reacted to the Commission's announcement and said Sweden could decide whether or not to allow the country's wolf hunt.

"I am confident that we will be able to dispel the doubts that the Commission has on our wolf policy," he told reporters.

"It is our conviction that decisions on the predator policy should be foremost taken in Sweden, near the people concerned, not in Brussels," he and Agriculture Minister Eskil Andersson said in a statement.

Carlgren was holding a press conference to detail the next steps in the implementation of Sweden's 2009 wolf policy, which calls for the "genetic enhancement" of the country's largely inbred wolf population.

He said new wolves "of Eastern origin" would be introduced into the Swedish population this year.

Carlgren said that the move could make way for a new hunt in 2012, pointing out that the wolf population would be evaluated annually to determine whether a hunt was justified.

This year's hunt was heavily criticized in Sweden, with environmental groups saying it was cruel and lacked scientific grounds.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said on Thursday that about 7,657 people had answered its call to protest by sending a letter to the EU environment commissioner through its website.

The organization praised the Commission's decision to launch a procedure against Sweden.


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