Switzerland has laws to protect wild animals. The current rules were introduced in 1986 when there were no wolves. In 1995, wolves started to return to Switzerland. By 2019, there were 80 wolves living in Switzerland and in some places packs have formed.
Wolves have attacked sheep and goats and been seen near villages, something that has sparked concern among some residents.
In response to the growing wolf population and the threat they pose to people and livestock Switzerland’s federal parliament passed new laws to keep the wolves in check. However, nature and conservation associations, concerned about the impact the new laws could have on wildlife, decided to launch a referendum to prevent the introduction of the new laws.
Currently, cantons are allowed to kill a lone wolf that is attacking livestock. But this can only be done if significant livestock damage has already occurred. The new rules would allow cantons to kill a lone wolf before it attacks.
Nature and wildlife associations fear this new rule could be used to circumvent the protection the original law gives wildlife. If wolves can be killed before they have caused damage to livestock then this open the way to unnecessary killing under the guise of preventing attacks. They fear the practice of preventative killing might also be extended to other wildlife.
However, most in government disagree. They think the new rules strike the right balance and contain other new elements that help to protect wildlife more that the current rules.
A majority of the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive branch, parliament (117 yes, 71 no, 9 abstentions), and the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house (28 yes, 16 no, 1 abstentions) are in favour of the updated hunting law.