The Bavarian Isartal in Germany is characterised by its rich cultural history of alpine farming. A cultural heritage worth protecting, but local farmers used to be sceptical about this idea. Yet, now farmers have teamed up with experts and legal advisors to get the official UNESCO recognition for World Cultural Heritage as soon as possible. The reason? They want to use the UNESCO label as an argument to kill wolves and even bears in the region. Because the wolf and bear would threaten the continued existence of alpine farming, and thereby the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, according to the initiators.
Please also read: Wolf remains protected by EU Parliament
The UNESCO benefits
An official application has been submitted to the UNESCO Committee, to advocate for the cultural landscape of alpine pastures and livestock farming. The Isartal with its alpine pastures and livestock farming has even been around since pre-historic times, according to the leading experts.
The same experts and local advisory group, consisting of alpine farmers, say the UNESCO certification would bring many benefits to the farmers. Under the UNESCO label, the local agricultural community would be able to apply for more long-term financial support from the province and state. Additionally, it would open the door to finance new projects. But most importantly is the fact that the application states that livestock has to be protected against large carnivores, especially the wolf and bear.
UNESCO excuse to kill wolves and bears
“Once the UNESCO application is approved, authorities have to act to stop the return of wolves and bears”, says the chairman of the farmers’ association in Upper Bavaria. And that is where it becomes clear why the people suddenly want this UNESCO certification. To use UNESCO as an excuse to create a wolf and bear-free zone, where the authorities are responsible to get rid of, or even kill, any wolf or bear that threatens the livestock.
Yet, what the farmers seems to ignore, it what they are actually trying to preserve: traditional alpine farming. An inherent part of livestock farming is to protect your animals. Protecting livestock against all kinds of threats has been part of the tradition for centuries. Livestock owners try to protect their animals from thieves, feral dogs, extreme weather conditions, sickness and wildlife predators. They look after their animals, helping them give birth, creating shelters and a safe place. There used to be even guarding dogs, proper fences and shepherds in the old days. If UNESCO would approve the preservation of the traditional practices, proper protection measures should be implemented as well.
UNESCO to enforce proper livestock protection measures
It is clear that this attempt is made by farmers who do not believe that livestock in the alpine region can be protected. It is a small group of people that believe that the only way to protect livestock is by killing wolves and bears. The reason is simple, they do not want to invest more time and resource to protect their animals like the people did traditionally for centuries. In fact in the application form it only states that the livestock must be protected and not that wolves and bears must be hunted and killed.
Fortunately, there are many alpine farmers who understand that proper livestock protection measures are needed. They accept that this aspect is part of the job that an alpine farmer has. These farmers and farmers associations are now working together with other partners to develop a big international project to demonstrate that livestock protection in the alpine region is possible, along with coexistence with large carnivores.