Should we kill the ibex to save the cattle in Haute-Savoie

Should ibexes be killed to save cattle in the Bargy massif ?

For years there has been a tug of war between farmers and nature protection associations concerning the fight against brucellosis. How the prefecture has decided ?

The history of the confrontation

In the Bargy massif in Haute-Savoie, near Grand-Bornand, an outbreak of brucellosis has existed for about ten years in ibex. This animal is an emblematic mammal of the fauna of our department. At the end of the year 2021, a case of contamination with brucellosis, a dairy cow, had been discovered in a herd of Saint-Laurent in Haute-Savoie, near the Bargy massif. As provided for by veterinary regulations, the entire herd had to be slaughtered, 229 animals.

The prefect of Haute-Savoie has confirmed the obligation to sacrifice the entire herd to maintain the disease-free status of our country.

Brucellosis is an animal bacterial infection that can be transmitted to all wild and farmed ruminants as well as to humans. In the animal, it causes a decrease in fertility, abortions and losses in milk. The transmission is done by food and direct contact.

To fight against the spread of this disease, the prefect of Haute-Savoie has taken a decree on March 17, 2022 which authorizes the resumption of shooting of ibex in the Bargy massif. The text indicates that in 2022, the limit is set at 170 slaughters of unmarked animals. A public consultation of citizens has indicated that 84% of opinions against the cull.

The position of the farmers

On Monday, November 29, 2021, hundreds of farmers demonstrated in front of the prefecture of Annecy to demand the slaughter of all the Bargy ibex. They believe that these wild animals are a reservoir of disease. Some of them have even said, that if not a radical measure, they could “clean up the ibex”.

They also proposed the introduction of healthy ibex in the massif.

The position of the nature protection associations

Associations such as France Nature Environnement and the LPO oppose the agricultural world on the question of the massive slaughter of the Bargy ibex. The latter, indicates on its site that the public authorities have authorized, against the advice of scientists and citizens, the slaughter without prior health control of a large number of ibex in Haute-Savoie. France Nature Environnement indicates that 95% of the ibexes of this massif are not contaminated.

The slaughter will concern 170 animals on a total population of 380 ibex. The National Council for the Protection of Nature has given a unanimous negative opinion on the project of the prefect. According to the FNE, there are more effective alternatives such as captures and tests.

They denounce this decision which would have been taken under the pressure of the local producers of reblochon.

The associations seem to have the intention to attack the prefectural decision before the administrative court of Grenoble.

Update of May 18, 2022 The administrative court of Grenoble has just suspended article 1 of the order of the prefect of Haute-Savoie which authorized the slaughter of 170 ungulates in 2022. The captures remain authorized. Of the 400 ibex in Bargy, a hundred can be tested each year.

Its captures are also authorized in the Aravis massif and the Sous Dine mountain.

Update of May 19, 2022 As expected, the agricultural union FDSEA reacted strongly to the court decision. Through the voice of its president, the union said that farmers will no longer proceed to the slaughter of their herd in cases of brucellosis.

Update October 17, 2022: Since this morning, an operation of slaughter of 75 ibexes is in progress in the Bargy. An operation that comes within the framework of the fight against brucellosis. Authorized by a prefectural decree dated October 17, it is conducted by the French Office of Biodiversity until October 18 at 22 hours. The access to the Bargy massif is forbidden and several roads are closed.

Only local residents and farmers are allowed to use these roads. According to the Prefecture, these operations of capture aim at eradicating the brucellosis, without for all that the presence of the ibex is not threatened.