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Sweden responds to EU criticism of wolf hunt

by Staff Writers
Stockholm (AFP) March 28, 2011
Sweden's environment minister on Monday said the country's wolf hunt was necessary to boost acceptance of the animal, in a response to a European Commission reprimand for allowing the cull.

In January, the European Commission decided to open a formal infringement procedure action against Sweden for allowing the hunt of a protected species.

It could lead to a case before the European Court of Justice, which can impose hefty fines on EU states that violate the bloc's rules.

"The aim of the government's wolf policy is for wolves to achieve the favourable conservation status that they currently lack," Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said.

"This requires strong and controversial measures, and the different aspects of wolf policy cannot be considered in isolation, as the Commission tends to do," he added.

The Swedish parliament decided in 2009 to keep wolf numbers at 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year.

Sweden argues that the hunt, which was reopened last year after a 46-year hiatus, is a way of strengthening the gene pool of its largely inbred wolf population, insisting that it will import wolves from Finland and Russia to replace the killed animals.

The hunt also enjoys support in rural Sweden, where the small wolf stock has grown over the past three decades and sheep and reindeer have increasingly come under attack.

Carlgren said Monday: "The wolf policy must enjoy support from those affected and be decided on in Sweden."

Many environmental groups in Sweden have urged a halt to the hunt.

The Swedish division of environmental group WWF said: "The government's answer is vague and does not answer the European Commission's tough questions."

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