EC outfoxed as Spanish snare claim ruled otter nonsense

A case brought against Spanish authorities which failed to prevent protected otters being killed by snares set for foxes has been dismissed by the European Court of Justice.

Commission v Spain (Case C-221/04)

In a ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 18 May 2006, the case of Commission v Spain (Case C-221/04) was dismissed by the Court.

The European Commission had sought a declaration of the Court that, owing to the authorisation by the Spanish authorities in Castilla y Léon of the setting of stopped snares in several private hunting areas, Spain had failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 12(1) of and Annex VI of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC).

The Commission argued that the permit to use stopped snares in the hunting area situated in the territory of the municipality of Aldeanueva de la Sierra in the province of Salamanca involved the deliberate capture or killing of otters, which was in breach of Article 12(1)(a) of the directive and that Spain had also infringed the provisions in Annex VI(a) to the Directive as the permit related to a means of hunting which is non-selective according to its principle and its conditions of use.

However, the complaint regarding the infringement of Annex VI(a) to the Directive was rejected as it was held that the contested permit was issued in respect of fox hunting and that the fox is an animal species which is not referred to in either Annex IV(a) or Annex V(a) to the directive.

With regard to the arguments concerning the presence of otters in the area, for the condition as to 'deliberate' action in Article 12(1)(a) of the directive to be met, it must be proven that the author of the act intended the capture or killing of a specimen belonging to a protected animal species or, at the very least, accepted the possibility of such capture or killing.

However, the contested permit related to fox hunting and therefore was not issued with the intention of permitting the capture of otters, the presence of which had also not been formally proven within the area.

The requisite criteria in order for the actions of the Spanish authorities to constitute a 'deliberate' action had therefore not been met in the present case and the Court accordingly dismissed the action.

The full text of the judgement is available at the following link.

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