Swiss set to vote on controversial hunting reforms

A wolf photographed at Bellwald im Obergoms in canton Valais in 2013. Keystone / Marco Schmidt

Animal protection campaigners have handed in signatures to force a nationwide vote on recent legal amendments to the Swiss hunting which would make it easier to hunt protected species such as wolves, bears and ibex.

This content was published on January 13, 2020 - 13:42
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On Monday, activists handed in the necessary signatures to the Federal Chancellery in Bern opposing plans adopted by parliament in September. They needed 50,000 by January 16, but managed to collect 100,000 signatures in three months calling for a referendum.

The environmental and animal protection groups ProNatura, WWF Switzerland, BirdLife Switzerland, Zoosuisse, Swiss Animal Protection and Wolf Switzerland want parliament to revise recent legal reforms of the hunting act.

Last September, parliamentarians agreed to renounce adopting nationwide hunting regulations, thus allowing cantons to make it easier to hunt protected species even before they may have caused any damage.

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Parliament’s revision of the hunting law proposes to do away with restrictive provisions like authorisation of the hunting of a protected species only when it kills a certain number of sheep, for example. Instead cantons will have the freedom to decide when an animal must be culled after consulting the Federal Office for the Environment.   

However, certain condition must still be met. Cantonal hunting regulations should not pose a threat to the viability of the population of a protected species. There should be enough animals to maintain a functioning ecosystem and conserve species diversity. The management of wild populations should also be adapted to the situation at a regional level. The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats  will be respected, according to the Federal Office for the Environment.  

Activists complain that the controversial legal reforms, which cover animals such as wolves, bears and ibex, may be extended to beavers, herons, swans and lynx without the authorities or Swiss people having any say. 

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