Crying wolf: MEPs ignore science and vote to lower legal protection of wolves

Posted on 24 November 2022

The European Parliament voted today for a resolution undermining the protection of Europe's large carnivores such as wolves, bears and lynxes, as well as to downgrade the conservation status of the wolf under the Bern convention.

This is in direct contradiction to scientific data showing that despite the recovery of many populations, they continue to face significant threats such as poaching, habitat fragmentation and degradation. Indeed, out of the nine transboundary wolf populations in the EU, six still have a vulnerable or nearly threatened status, and continue to need active protection [1].

Today’s vote is the last in a series of attempts in the past years to decrease the legal protection status for large carnivores, particularly wolves. These discussions distract from the task at hand, which is to constructively focus on implementing measures to achieve co-existence and ensure that farmers are compensated for their losses. WWF’s recent Living Planet Report has demonstrated that the world is facing an unprecedented crisis of nature loss, with two thirds of populations of species lost in the past 50 years.

“After being on the brink of extinction in certain European areas, large carnivores have been making a remarkable comeback to Europe’s landscapes - and this is widely recognised as a milestone in conservation. With this vote, however, MEPs - spearheaded by the EPP, ECR and ID groups - are seeking to undo one of the few success stories of nature conservation in Europe,” said Rebecca Humphries, Senior Public Affairs Officer at WWF European Policy Office

Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office, said: “By adopting this resolution, MEPs are failing both nature and farmers. Wolves are being used as scapegoats for the wider socio-economic problems the extensive livestock sector is experiencing. Instead of promoting the fairy tale that shooting wolves will solve all problems, MEPs should rather direct their focus on already available solutions. Exerting pressure on Member States is key to ensuring farmers are compensated for damages and receive support to implement preventive measures. Member States must also reward farmers implementing pasture and extensive grazing systems for the services they provide to maintain valuable ecosystems.”

While the coexistence between humans and large carnivores can cause conflicts, particularly in relation to livestock depredation, it is important to note that a number of preventive measures such as electric fences, livestock guarding dogs and human presence have proven to be effective to reduce damages. At the same time, scientific studies are clear that killing wolves is not an effective solution to reduce livestock predation.
MEPs also voted in favour of erroneous claims of human victims, aimed at further exaggerating the danger that wolves pose. In Europe, there have been no fatalities linked to wolves this century, and risks of attacks are extremely low, as shown by the latest data from 2020 [2].

After being on the brink of extinction in certain European areas, large carnivores have been making a remarkable comeback to Europe’s landscapes.
© Staffan Wildstrand