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.