POLL: Would you support the reintroduction of the wolf in the UK?

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For anyone raised on Grimms’ fairytales – or wary of cows, hostile-looking geese – there have always been certain obvious difficulties with ambitious campaigns. Reintroducing beavers is one thing. Boars: maybe. But among the more appealing aspects of life in Britain, for the nervous, is the relative certainty of never encountering a pack.

Recent celebrations over the return of these predators to the outskirts of Rome attest, however, to the huge success of rewilders, within a couple of decades, in dispelling this sort of unsubstantiated, if ancient, anti-wolf sentiment.

Far from representing a threat to humans, wolf supporters insist, the creatures are shy, peaceable types, outrageously traduced in The Three Little Pigs, much less aggressive towards us than dogs – no great surprise, really, given the numerical difference, but you get the point.

No pack drill please: European grey wolves. Photograph: Alamy

If there is any substance to French farmers’ complaints that wolves keep their sheep, this would probably, to many sheep-hating conservationists, seem an excellent way of using the ruminants up. As for deer, which have only human predators: this would be doing us, if not the deer, a favour. European wolf fans, such as the Dutch ecologist Leo Linnartz sound amused by our timidity. “We have wolves coming into the Netherlands again and we are much, much smaller than Britain. If the Dutch can do it, everybody can do it.”

Expanding on the benefits of wolves, which he hopes shortly to reintroduce in the UK, after the lynx and before, hopefully, bears, Peter Smith, CEO of Britain’s Wildwood Trust, said recently: “There are wolves all over Europe and they don’t cause problems. When was the last time you heard someone being killed by a wolf?”

It seems improbable, however, that the scheme will be abandoned if a Greek coroner is confirmed in his theory that an attack by wolves – not feral dogs – caused the horrifying death of the British academic Celia Hollingworth. If rewilding is designed, as its exponents believe, to be more natural than what it replaces, that can hardly be achieved by forcing animals to suppress their instincts. And if something is guaranteed 100% safe, it can’t really be called rewilding, can it? To the extreme rewilder, some loss of human life could be a price worth paying.

For all the assurances about safety and the greater likelihood of injury in traffic accidents, excitement about reintroducing risk to tame, farming-depleted landscapes seems integral to grander strategies for rewilding. To the annoyance of its more glamorous exponents, the term now embraces the restoration of anything from vegetation to mammoths.

Before long, in fact, some new words may be needed to distinguish humbler conservation-minded projects, featuring, say, reed beds and voles, from bolder, explicitly prelapsarian proposals, such as those advanced by , author of the widely admired Feral. He dreams, he writes, of us “standing back” from the land, after removing manmade interventions and “reintroducing missing animals” (and culling, along the way, “a few particularly invasive exotic species”). “It’s about abandoning the biblical doctrine of dominion which has governed our relationship with the natural world.”

The consequences of this updated form of dominion are not easy to predict, as some biologists have warned. To import wolves into selected zones of Britain is, however picturesque, neither to recreate the 18th-century ecosystem in which they were last observed, nor to ordain the outcome. The authors of Rewilding is the new Pandora’s box in conservation (Current Biology, February 2016) advocate, as a corrective to the “drumbeat” now advancing all kinds of rewilding approaches, “caution and an increased understanding and awareness of what is unknown about rewilding and what its potential outputs, especially ecological consequences, might be”.

As with the craze for fangsheng, the mercy release of animals, which recently led to hundreds of crabs and lobsters being dropped into the sea off Brighton, the best attempts by humans to repudiate previous dominion can translate into disaster and, in that case, £15,000 in fines for twowell-meaning Buddhists.

But from what Monbiot has written, and the response to it, some vagueness around restoring nature only adds to its attraction. “The wonderful thing about rewilding,” he wrote, following a Guardian review of his book, “is that you don’t know where it’s going to go… the way ecosystems evolve once missing species are introduced and we stop trying to control them is delightfully unpredictable.”

A similarly disarming imprecision, among enthusiasts, about the most natural baseline for rewilding, recalls the way that conservationists, when conferring aesthetic approval on a particular moment in the evolution of a historic house, tell us just as much about the present day. Where Rewilding Britain seems happy – for now – with unshowy improvements, and others are content with any pre-industrialisation benchmark featuring wolves, true rewilding demands, for some, costly attempts to recreate the Pleistocene landscape, before mankind, in its fallen state, started ruining the natural world.

What the various rewildings have in common is that, though all consider human intervention unnatural, all require, for the reversion to Eden, further human intervention: maybe correcting for missing flora and fauna, or to give a leg-up to unsuspecting prey, or simply to protect these zones from hostile life forms, whether farmers, tourists or foreign lobsters.

Even with its distaste for earlier human priorities, rewilding is not, as indicated by the popularity of wolf-restoration, too aloof to indulge continued human fascination, regularly demonstrated by Vladimir Putin and likeminded princelings, with charismatic megafauna. “The flagship taxa of rewilding,” the authors of an academic study of rewilding point out, “tend to be megaherbivores and carnivores, species that generate considerable public appeal and revenues for conservation.”

Rewilding is offered, in Monbiot’s compelling account of his awakening, as a corrective to an affliction that cannot but recall Marie Antoinette’s in the court of Louis XVI, that of boredom – in the writer’s case, “ecological boredom”, thus requiring treatment more powerful than a model farm. We may yet have to instrumentalise the mastodon.

“We arose in a thrilling, terrible world,” Monbiot writes, in a tone that suggests mere wolf won’t do much for his accidie. Not when David Attenborough once described wolves as “gentle and very loyal creatures, whose sole purpose is to survive and look after each other”.

Rather, Monbiot conjures up early hominid life on African savannas, “dominated by sabre-toothed and false sabre-toothed cats, giant hyenas and bear dogs”.

As a recreational walker, I can barely express how grateful I am to inhabit, instead, a landscape dominated by the labradoodle. Still, the soaring interest in importing wolves and bears suggests that Monbiot’s longing for Pleistocene-age pick-me-ups – “a smouldering longing for a richer and rawer life than the one I lead” – is widely shared. While France and Italy have thriving packs, there seems no good reason why the British public should be denied its own wolf population, even if it may well tell us less about thrilling nature than about the disenchanted human beings who opted to put them back.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 01 Oct 2017.


We invite you to share your opinion whether you would support the reintroduction of the wolf in the UK? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.

 

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Sylvia
Sylvia

Yes. As long as they didn’t choose to murder them later on when they were considered a nuisance!

Linda Bonicelli

Absolutely!

Betty S. Kline

Signed

Marilyn Leybra

In the winter of 1995-96 the USF&W using tapayer money kidnapped, leghold trapped wolves in Canada, transported in the freezing holds of small planes & dumped in Yellowstone bordering ranching states who were vehemently against this ‘re-introduction’ plan. some survived & procreated, some were found shot, some disappeared. Despite fact wolves had already been seen slowly entering U.S. near Canadian border on their own but not fast enough to have enough to kill. Today wolves are being slaughtered once again, by states such as Iowa complainig 2 small packs totaling 9 wolves were impacting the elk population reserved for human… Read more »

Griess Mino Mathilde

no !

Marie-France Durand

OUI PTG

Josiane DE Angelis

non contre !!!!car ils seront helas massacres par ces degeneres de chasseurs !

Vanessa Black

Yes..if not shot..saughtered later..

Martin Bryce

I advocated rewilding during a speech on Tower Hill, London back in 1973. I was working nearby as an archaeologist at the start of the MoL’s first foray into intensive rescue archaeology as a result in the redevelopment boom in the City at that time. The team would often go to Tower Hill to buy food and watch the entertainment, which included ‘soapbox’ speeches at lunchtime. So, as a keen conservationist then and now, I decided to introduce the idea to the gathered masses. I was only a few minutes into my presentation when I had to be dragged away… Read more »

george mira

Te wolves I ave heard ave dispersed also into the Pyrenees, perhaps meeting their persecuted relatives in NW Spain and northern Portugal. I have read they also explore the Jura. These places were their home, and just as here, the wolf knows and settles where life sustains him. Researchers have assessed that especially in certain seasons, up to 85% of wolf diet is carrion. Hunting is not a sport or toy medal of manhood. Human populations of the present density cannot ethically or sustaining conservation, any longer hunt. The red deer, the elk, these are to be managed by the… Read more »

Linda Badham
Linda Badham

as much as i’d want to say yes I’m saying no. too much cruelty allowed !!

george mira

Unnamed is the writer, a Catherine Bennett. George Monbiot, is a writer, with whom I feel great affinity across a sea and a continent. He was a literate voice for rewilding, in the time of Michael Soule’s discoveries, and the ErthFirst ‘ country intellectual Dave Foreman’s organizing for conservation biology and saving the wild. I am only a student of comparative cognition and behavior, of neurons and bacteria quorum sensing, of islands and waves and shores and mountains I have roamed with a born-captive wolf. I have been a student of the communications of bears and wolves and ravens, of… Read more »

Isabelle Fernandès

Nous vous invitons à partager votre opinion si vous soutenez la réintroduction du loup au Royaume-Uni? Votez et laissez vos commentaires au bas de cette page.

Soutiendriez-vous la réintroduction du loup au Royaume-Uni?

Oui (86%, 122 Votes)
Non (9%, 13 Votes)
Ne sais pas (5%, 7 Votes)
Nombre total d’électeurs: 142

Debbie Macmillan
Debbie Macmillan

I love wolves and have only seen them in a wildlife park near Inverness. The only thing that worries me is that there are always nasty people who would shoot them for any excuse or none! 🙁

Nina Stavlund

If there will be no more hunting, after intruducing them back, then I support it. If this is done to please trigger happy poeple, then NO!

Gabriel Collier

Fuck no! Reduce the human population instead!

Theresa Kemp

Nature in motion, just as it should be 😉

Theresa Kemp

I voted yes but only on condition game hunting was eradicated. This way, nature can take it’s natural course and it works. Mankind should not continue to try managing nature, it just totally messes it up.

Adrian Fox

At least it would neutralise that pathetic justification used by hunters here in France, that it’s fine to slaughter deer or anything else they happen to find, every other day all through the winter months as ‘there are no top predators to remove the weak members of the species’.
Of course, hunters kill whatever they can find with their largely uncontrolled packs of dogs, while wolves generally go for the easy option of the elderly animals, the weak and the diseased.

Theresa Kemp

Nature in motion, just as it should be 😉

Marilyn Leybra

Adrian Fox, in France hunters would simply have one more species to enjoy killing w/ the justfication being that wolves are negatively impacting other species they enjoy killing. Look to the dollar. The Govt. collects income from hunters for the priviledge of hunting.

Linda Berry

yes

Bianca Aring

s