Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Does a Bear Kill in the Woods?

We are used to seeing news stories of French farmers protesting about the evils of globalisation and generally being rather "protective".

The most recent protest however was something of a surprise. Instead of the traditional sheep burning, French farmers have taken to dumping dead sheep in front of their town hall to protest not about cheap imports but Bears.

It appears they kill 300 sheep and cattle a year. Is that a lot? Not according to the government who claim another 20,000 die for other reasons. Environmentalists are equally laid back. However, it is not hard to see why the bear was wiped out in the first place.

Has some contingent valuation guy come along and worked out the benefits? Who benefits? Are there avid bear watchers out there in hides? Do we all gain some feeling of welfare and well-being from this reintroduction - I think I might? Can the farmers be compensated by those who gain from having the bears there? I might be willing a pay a pound a year to help (although that would blow my google advert earnings in one go).

French Farmers Dump Dead Sheep to Protest Bears
TOULOUSE, France - Dozens of angry French farmers dumped the bodies of six dead sheep in front of their town hall on Wednesday, saying the animals had been killed by bears that were reintroduced to the Pyrenees mountains.

The farmers say that bringing the bears back into the region on the border between France and Spain under a government project is threatening their livestock.
"There is a growing revolt among farmers and we wanted to show ... that it's a daily occurrence for farmers to have their animals devoured 50 metres from their houses," said Marie-Lyse Brouilh, a local farming official.

The farmers blame one bear named Franska for many of the deaths and on Monday and Tuesday evenings they tried to force her out onto the plain with firecrackers and gunshots.

But local officials say that Franska, who wears a tracking collar, is not responsible for most of the dead animals.

The farmers are expected to meet with local officials soon to discuss the programme that began in 1996 as part of a European bear reintroduction plan.

The farmers complain the project was started by town dwellers and Parisians and does not take their livelihoods into account.

Environmentalists dismiss the idea of any serious damage to sheep or cattle herds caused by a total wild bear population in the region estimated at around 20.

The government says bears kill around 300 sheep and cattle a year in the region. This compares with up to 20,000 losses a year for other reasons.

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