Skip to main content

Wolves or Cheese: France must decide


French sheep farmers say they are caught between two sets of strict rules: one that governs the making of cheeses, and one that protects wolves from slaughter.

The farmers of the Aveyron area, in south central France say that rising wolf populations have cost them 8,000 animals a year, about 1% of their flocks. They want the right to shoot wolves on sight in pasture lands. At present, they can shoot only if an attack is imminent or underway.

The regulations for making the area's famed cheeses, which include Roquefort, require their aging in certain ways in certain caves, and require that the milk be from ewes that have grazed freely in the area's pastures. Farmers say there is no way to fence wolves out of the pastures, and want to either be allowed to shoot the wolves, or keep the sheep in enclosed grazing pens.

A major farmers' demonstration was scheduled for Lyon Monday to push their demands. The head of the national sheep federation says the wolves are a big problem in 33 departments in France. 

Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot called for a balance between safeguarding wolves, a protected species in Europe, and protecting livestock and farmers. Successive governments have, so far, failed to satisfy the competing demands of farmers and wolf lobbyists.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Add Comment

Comments (3)

Newest · Oldest · Popular

Tough call.  Roquefort is my all time favorite cheese.  Not sure killing wolves when in pasture land is workable.   When wolves get hungry they go where the food source is located.  Wouldn't they keep repopulating and returning until they're all shot?  Eradicating wolves is not a good decision for ecological balance.  Difficult for the government to make either side happy.

George G

Actually, the farmers have asked to be allowed to pen the sheep in close to keep them safe...but under the current rules, their milk can then not be used for Roquefort. It seems there should be some compromise possible here...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

I love wolves.  They are beautiful, but they are also smart and efficient predators.  An easy food source like sheep is something they'll go back to again and again once tried, especially if they develop a taste for mutton.  Much easier than bringing down a deer, for example, or chasing rabbits.  Cattle ranchers in the north central US plains and Canada face a similar problem, where wolves can develop a taste for calves.  And that is much more costly to ranchers than the loss of a sheep.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Link copied to your clipboard.