Last Saturday a street protest organised by a number of regional farming, livestock and hunting organisations gathered 2,500 protesters in Foix, in the department of Ariège. The message was
clear, if outdated: “Do not touch my mountain”, “vultures, bears and wolves out”, and “stop the massacre”. You can see details of this demonstration, including a short video, in the link
The people were protesting against the rewilding of the Pyrenees, and the impacts that large predators (and vultures?) allegedly have on their activities. They would like to be able to hunt and kill these animals.
While the VCF respects the opinion of these people, and their right to demonstrate, and acknowledges their expectations, we believe they belong to the past. The new rurality – even in France - is one where biodiversity, farming, tourism, people and wilderness coexist successfully.
Current evidence does not support any of the arguments shouted about in the demonstration, or conveyed in the many articles that regularly surface in the regional press. In relative terms, predators have very little impact on farming and livestock, certainly when compared with other costs, and there are solutions and tools to minimise those too. They also bring revenue, in terms of tourism, profile and visitors.
The case of the vultures is even more puzzling, and demonstrative of the level of misinformation that exists in those sectors - these birds are not predators and will not kill an animal that is active and moving – they have not evolved to search for moving animals, instead responding behaviourally only to immobility. While they may kill a few animals that are lying around mortally wounded (and that would die in any case), their role as scavengers is actually extremelly beneficial to the farmers and livestock breeders, and for the French people, as animal carcasses do not have to be removed from the countryside if they are consumed by vultures. The VCF is finishing preparing a position paper on the issue of incidents between vultures and live cattle, which aims to demystify – and provide all the latest scientific evidence- about this matter.
Final point to list some take home messages and a conclusion from yesterday’s public demonstration – conservation organisation like ours need to be more effective in informing the public at large about the benefits of biodiversity, and we need to engage more with the local stakeholders to discuss the issues. However, the leaders of farming, hunting and livestock organisations in the Pyrenees and elsewhere should have the vision to take them to the future, and not stay stuck in a yesteryears mind-set that will only result in their progressive isolation.
You can also download below a statement put out by LPO (Ligue Pour la Protection des Oiseaux) before this demonstration.