10th October 2019
Today Europe’s top court has upheld the strict protection that EU law offers to wolves and other species, making it clear there are some serious questions about the reasoning and evidence put forward by the Finnish government to hunt wolves.
“We welcome the decision today from the Court. The ruling has reiterated the strict conditions laid out in EU law and clarifies that only in the most exceptional cases can the protection given to these important animals be overridden."
In 2015, the Finnish government issued permits to hunt seven endangered wolves arguing that it would help to reduce public fear and avoid illegal poaching, which would ultimately help conserve their population.
Wolves are a protected species in Finland after being driven to the brink of extinction by hunting, poaching and habitat loss. The EU Habitats Directive outlines the protection and conservation of rare and endangered species, including the common wolf, and requires Member States to establish strict protections to stop the capture and killing of these species in the wild. In exceptional circumstances Member States are allowed to overrule this requirement.
The case, brought by the Association for Nature Conservation (ANC) Tapiola in 2017, aims to annul permits granted by the Finnish Environment Agency.
ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “We welcome the decision today from the Court. The ruling has reiterated the strict conditions laid out in EU law and clarifies that only in the most exceptional cases can the protection given to these important animals be overridden.
“We believe that those circumstances are unlikely to apply to hunting in all but extremely rare occasions.”
The case will return to the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland for a final judgement but the guidance offered by the ruling makes it clear there are some serious questions about the reasoning and evidence put forward by the Finnish government.
Anna added: “The Finnish court will have to think very carefully about whether the strict tests set out by the Court of Justice in this case have been met."
Today's ruling is a key milestone in the protection of endangered Finnish wolves and other rare European species. It has set a precedent for not only the protection of wolves, but also other vital species such as bears, lynx, bats and snails.
“This ruling should act as a wake-up call to all EU countries. Wolves play a crucial role in keeping our ecosystems healthy. All governments have an obligation to ensure their protection so that they can once again thrive in their natural habitats.”
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