29 Jun 2022 Livestock farming and large carnivores in Europe: Discussing a way forward
Brussels, 28 June 2022 – The European Parliament’s (EP) “Biodiversity, Hunting, Countryside” Intergroup held the online briefing session on “Livestock farming and large carnivores in Europe: Discussing a way forward” organised in conjunction with the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE).
The event was hosted by the Vice-President of the Intergroup and member of the EP Agriculture Committee, MEP Simone Schmiedtbauer (Austria), with introductory remarks from MEP Thomas Waitz (Austria), substitute member of the EP Agriculture Committee.
In her opening message, MEP Simone Schmiedtbauer emphasized that “Brussels must pay attention to the human grief and suffering and farm animal suffering caused by the expansion of large carnivores. Rural communities are not ‘second class’ citizens and their needs must be taken seriously. The lack of empathy towards rural communities on the European Commission’s side when it comes to large carnivores hurts me deeply. For the European countryside, the return of the large carnivores is a personal matter for many. It is about the countryside’s trust in the European institutions and in the EU itself and that trust is crumbling in many parts of Europe. I sincerely wish that we pave the way to find solutions to this long-standing conflict. This is why the European Parliament’s Intergroup and I provided a safe space for exchange”.
In his introductory remarks, Thomas Waitz, Austrian MEP and Co-Chair of the European Green Party stated that: “Large carnivores are an essential part of the European wildlife. As with many other species, we need mechanisms to organize the co-existence with regional agriculture.”
With a special focus on the human dimensions of conflicts , the scientists and experts provided context to the often complex issue of livestock farming and large carnivores in Europe.
The perspective from the European Commission was given by Dr. Nicola Notaro, Head of the Nature Conservation Unit in DG Environment,. He stated that: “The ongoing recovery of large carnivores contributes to the EU wider biodiversity objectives for 2030 and is an important component of the restoration of European ecosystems, recently proposed by the Commission through the Nature Restoration Law. In this context, Member States are currently finalising their CAP Strategic Plans for the period 2023-2027. It is important that they ensure adequate support for the coexistence between sustainable livestock farming and large carnivores. The Commission fully acknowledges the challenge of the rural communities facing the return of large carnivores after a long time. Within its competences, it will continue to provide them with technical and financial support”.
Dr. John Linnell, Senior Research Scientist, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, gave an insight into the scientific state of play: “We have come very far during recent decades in terms of our understanding of the nature of large carnivore conflicts with livestock, in terms of understanding what measures can reduce this conflict, and in terms of putting in place financial and technical policies to implement these measures. However, the fact that conflicts remain intense reflects the fact that it is not really the technical aspects that lie at the heart of controversies. Rather it is a conflict over trust, values and different visions for the European countryside. There is an urgent need for pastoralists and environmentalists to work together”.
Dr. Tasos Hovardas from CALLISTO – Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society (Greece) provided insights into recent research that has shown that Rural Development Programmes (RDPs) can play a substantial role in supporting farmers in damage prevention and that there are more opportunities in utilizing RDPs to support advice and stakeholder collaboration.
Mr. Raul Muñiz, Vice chair of the COPA-COGECA sheep and goat meat Working Group gave his input from a farmer’s perspective: “People from the rural countryside need more flexibility to manage conflicts with large carnivores and not losing the tools that were in place”.
With a good attendance of around 200 online participants, the meeting was moderated by Dr. David Scallan, FACE Secretary General, who also hosted a wide-ranging Q&A discussion. To get full insights of the state of play and learn about the hunters’ perspectives and role in livestock farming and large carnivores management in Europe, see the video-recording here.