Spanish fox hunting bad for otters

Spain has come under fire from the European Commission for authorising setting snares for foxes which are also impacting on the otter population.

Case C-221/04, Commission v Spain

The Advocate General has presented his opinion in the case of Commission v Spain (Case C-221/04).

The case arose following allegations by the European Commission that Spain had failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 12(1) and Annex VI of the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EC) due to authorities in Castilla y Leon having authorised permits for fox hunting with snares in several private hunting areas.

The Commission argued that this was illegal as the use of snares for fox hunting resulted in hunting or the deliberate disturbance of other animal species, in particular the Lutra lutra (Otter), which is included in Annex IV of the Directive, and is therefore a species of Community interest that requires special protection.

As the snare is a non-selective method of hunting, any animal may be trapped, regardless of whether or not its capture is desired.

The Spanish authorities’ however argued that the permits contained a clause requiring other species to be freed, though this did not necessarily mean that the traps were selective, since the animals captured usually suffer injury, including the loss of limbs, by attempting to free themselves from the snares.

At this stage in the proceedings however, the Advocate General in his Opinion has concluded that there has not been a violation of Article 12(1) of the Habitats Directive and has therefore recommended that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) should reject the application and the European Commission should meet the costs of bringing the action.

The reasoning of the Advocate General can be found within the Opinion which is available in a number of European languages here.

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