After months of debate, German lawmakers agreed on Thursday to a new law that makes it easier for farmers to lethally shoot wolves in order to protect their livestock.
Livestock farmers will have the right to shoot at wild wolves if the hunters cause “serious damage” to their animals. Formerly, farmers were only allowed to shoot if the wolves threatened the farmer’s livelihood.
The new law permits killing wolves up until the point that there are no more attacks on farm animals in an area, even if it means killing an entire wolf pack.
Farmers are authorized to shoot a wolf regardless of whether that specific animal is responsible for attacking a herd. Wolf-dog hybrids may also be shot.
The decision also provides financial compensation for farmers and hobby shepherds in the case of an attack. It also makes it illegal to feed or lure wolves.
Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?
The measures are meant to quell a fear of wolves that has developed in many German rural communities. Farmers had campaigned for the right to protect their livestock with lethal force following a sharp rise in the number of wolf attacks on livestock.
361 lawmakers voted in favor of the new law versus 275 who voted against it.
Politician Hermann Färber of Germany’s Christian Democrats said there were 639 wolf attacks in Germany in the last year, resulting in the death of 2067 livestock.
“It’s high time that we provide another vision for farmers of pastured animals to protect their animals,” he said.
Read more: Wolf reportedly bites man in German cemetery
Environmental spokesman for the Social Democrats Carsten Träger emphasized, “There will not be uncontrolled shootings of wolf packs.”
The World Wildlife Federation welcomed the move, saying that measures to protect herds are necessary if humans, livestock, and wild animals are to live together in the long term.
But others criticized the decision: Leftist politician Ralph Lenkert called for greater support for shepherds, while Steffi Lemke of the Greens said it went against European law.
A population recovers
According to federal data, the number of wolf packs in Germany rose from 77 to 105 in the last year alone. Also recorded were 25 pairs and 13 lone wolves.
The German Environmental Ministry estimates that there are around 400 wolves living in Germany, primarily in the eastern and northern parts of the country.