EU Court Paves the Way for Wolf Hunting to Improve Social Tolerance

In the countries of the European Union, wolf hunting is generally prohibited. Wolves are a protected species.

There are limited exceptions – known as derogations – to the general prohibitions and last month, the European Court of Justice held that improving social tolerance for a protected species can, under some circumstances, qualify as such a derogation.

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The EU’s highest court considered the decision of Finland to allow limited wolf hunting “for population management purposes.” Finland’s goal was not to reduce its wolf population but instead to make the human inhabitants of areas adjacent to those occupied by wolves more tolerant of the species. Finland’s goal was to reduce the illegal killing of wolves and thereby improve the species’ conservation status.

Despite acknowledging the viability of a social tolerance-based derogation, the Court of Justice did not give a green light to Finland’s wolf hunting authorization. Instead the EU court tasked the Finnish Court to find fulfillment of all the requirements for a derogation, such as the ability of the authorization of hunting permits to actually combat poaching and a demonstration that the hunting program would not be “detrimental to the maintenance of the populations of species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range.” .

The European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) strongly endorsed the ruling.

“[The] decision confirms that EU law allows Member States to use hunting in managing large carnivore populations that are strictly protected, including for the objective of combatting illegal killing and increasing social acceptance”, said Torbjörn Larsson, FACE President. “The European Commission’s existing guidance document with recommendations to the Member States on how to deal with strictly protected species under EU law, which is currently being updated, must now firmly stress that improving social acceptance and decreasing illegal killing can be a justification for limited and strictly controlled hunts” Larsson continued.

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The Finnish Hunters’ Association also expressed strong support for the ruling. “The Finnish Hunters’ Association welcomes the preliminary ruling from the EU court that in principle gives green light for management hunting of wolves,” said Heli Siitari, Executive Director of the Finnish Hunters’ Association. “We have just updated our wolf management plan in Finland, and management hunting is a tool for this plan. We see this opportunity, although the hunt will be very strictly regulated, as a positive thing for people living in the countryside and for the acceptance of wolf in general.” The case has been sent back to the Finnish court and awaits a final verdict. SCI will update members when the court’s ruling is made public.

The documents relating to this ruling can be found here.

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