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Hunting of Iberian wolves now banned throughout Spain – yet farmers protest

Spain’s Environment Ministry has ruled that protection for wolves in the south of the country will now extend north of the Duero river, where controlled hunting had still been allowed. The ruling will now make it illegal to hunt wolves throughout Spain, making the Iberian wolf a protected species.

The ministry highlighted the cultural and scientific importance of the species, and their value to maintaining ecosystems, in the decision to extend the ban on hunting. Spain is home to an estimated 1,500-2,000 Iberian wolves, with 90% in the northern regions of Castilla y León, Asturias and Galicia.

But the agricultural organisation UPA that ‘represents, defends and provides services’ to small and medium farmers and ranchers in Spain, has argued that the nationwide hunting ban will lead to more attacks on livestock. It said that a recent rebound in the wolf population had brought more attacks on cattle, and accused the Environment Minister Teresa Ribera of ignoring farmers’ needs.

Iberian wolf (ML / Unsplash).

‘It is we livestock farmers who are in danger of extinction,’ it said. ‘Today, cattlemen and women and of course their goats, sheep, cows … are in mourning. Today it has been decided that one of their main predators deserves more protection than they do.’

In a country already split with the bullfighting debate, farmers and environmentalists across Spain have repeatedly clashed over campaigns to bolster populations of the brown bear and the Iberian lynx, especially in Spain’s mountainous north, which is home to extensive sheep herds.

The conservation group Ecologists in Action called the nationwide ban on wolves a ‘historic day’, and urged the authorities to work with farmers on ways to protect cattle without harming wolves.

‘We urge the autonomous communities of the north of the Duero to stop killing wolves from today, to stop their illegal hunting and to collaborate with ranchers in promoting the co-existence between wolf and livestock,’ the group tweeted.

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