Wolf debate bites at Brussels

Wolf debate bites at Brussels
By Damon Embling
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Amid a resurgence in wolf numbers in Europe, the EU faces striking a balance between nature and threat to farmers


They may look majestic, but the resurgence of wolves in Europe is biting at Brussels. Politicians now having to try and strike a balance between nature and the concerns of farmers.

Wolves are back on the scene thanks to years of strict protection. But they're seen as vicious killing machines by some farmers. Sheep have been attacked and mauled by wolves. It's led to support for culling the animals.

"Many farmers are very frustrated, feel threatened every day and every night about their cattle, about their herds," said Udo Hemmerling, Deputy Secretary-General, German Farmers Association.

"And we want to start with an active regulation, an active regulation plan on wolves, also in Germany. And this means also in certain cases shooting and reducing the wolves."

Wolf populations are said to be growing significantly in places like Germany. Reports suggest the animals came back to Belgium last winter - the last country in mainland Europe said to see their return.

Amid their rise in numbers, conservationists are keen to reassure the public about their safety.

"It's always a little bit sad that people still think that wolves are dangerous, but they are not dangerous," said Frederik Thoelen, a Belgian conservationist. 

"In our country, where the two wolves are, people are starting to try different kinds of fences to protect the sheep against the wolves. And if you use the good fences and if you use the good ways of keeping wolves outside, it is perfectly possible to live together with those carnivores but of course you need a little bit of goodwill from people, if you really want to live together with wolves."

Amid all the competing arguments, the European Parliament's agriculture committee heard on Wednesday from a Norwegian nature expert about the challenges presented by large predators. The aim: to try and reach a compromise, on that controversial co-existence between wolf and farmer.

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