Aveyron: breeders of sheep exasperated by the wolf
The breeder Michel Pons on the Larzac plateau October 6, 2017
“When one day you discover the corpse of one of your sheep, slaughtered by a wolf, it is horrible, it is a trauma for the breeder,” confides Nicolas Fabre: in Aveyron, wolf attacks multiply, exasperating breeders who feel “helpless” in front of the predator.
Met in front of a demonstration to gather 2,000 breeders on Monday in Lyon, Nicolas Fabre seems helpless when watching his beasts browsing freely on the plateau of Larzac, in the southeast of Aveyron.
“In early May, I lost two sheep,” said the 38-year-old breeder based in Cornus, whose herd of more than 500 animals has been attacked twice in recent months.
When he discovered them, “one was dead, and the other was wounded, the chest open and eviscerated. I was the one who euthanized it,” he said. The second attack occurred mid-July and again he had to euthanize the animal whose “piece of leg” was missing.
A few kilometers away, Michel Pons experienced the same setbacks in April and September. Results: five injured and four killed.
Sheep on the Larzac plateau October 6, 2017
Everywhere, in the Aveyron, testimonies accumulate. According to the Territorial Directorate of the Territories, 50 suspected wolf attacks have already been recorded in 2017, as against 16 in 2016. The number of animals killed or wounded this year is 163, as against 91 in 2016.
“The Aveyron is 800,000 ewes,” says François Giacobbi, breeder and in charge of this file for the Chamber of Agriculture of the department. “It is a true larder for the wolf”, a species protected in Europe and whose presence in France is strongly defended by environmental organizations.
“But where there is traditional breeding, it is not possible,” says Michel Pons, going on one of the “routes”, these pastures where the sheep, for now in full reproduction period , spend most of the year.
It is a necessity to respect the specifications of Roquefort AC cheese, “made with sheep’s milk which must graze on the outside”, and that of the “red label for the lambs under mother”, recalls François Giacobbi. “And it is also a consumer demand,” says Nicolas Fabre.
This agropastoralism has led Unesco to include this sector of the Causses and the Cevennes on the World Heritage List.
– ‘Objective zero attack’ –
But Michel Pons doubts that this type of breeding “lasts a long time”. “If it becomes a hell, I will do something else,” says Nicolas Fabre. The two men fear “packing up” if nothing is done. For now, wolves would be five or six in the area, they assure.
Nicolas Fabre, a breeder of the Larzac, with his dog, October 6, 2017
And nothing protects their fences, nets, or protective dogs from their attacks, according to them. It is also impossible to watch flocks of several hundred beasts grazing on dozens of acres of the Larzac, covered with oaks, boxwood and junipers.
For the National Sheep Federation as for the FDSEA of the Aveyron, the solution passes by a objective “zero attack”. The Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Travert, had himself advanced during a trip to the Aveyron last month without specifying how to reach it.
The Sheep Federation believes that “we must be able to shoot the wolf when it attacks the herd,” says its president, Michèle Boudoin. And that is outside of any slaughter quota set at 40 until the end of June 2018.
“The wolf must be afraid of the man,” argues Mrs. Boudoin, for whom the attacks put at risk the rurality in more than 33 departments. “He must learn that when he approaches a flock, he is in danger of death,” adds Francis Giaccobi.
And Michèle Boudoin to wish a new national plan of the wolf that “puts in its heart the breeding and the breeders”.
The previous version of the plan presented in September had led breeders’ associations to slam the door of the meeting.