President Ursula von der Leyen speaks to the German Farmers Association outside the Conference of German regional presidents. Credit: Aurore Martignoni, © European Union, 2023


Von der Leyen tells anti-wolf supporters she is ‘collecting data’ ahead of expected cull push


Ursula von der Leyen took time out from a meeting with fellow German politicians to update supporters about a potential EU-wide wolf cull on September 6.

The European Commission President, who was in Brussels to address a conference of Germany’s regional leaders, told anti-wolf protesters that the Brussels executive was actively counting wolf numbers to assess what level of cull was possible.

Before entering the representation of Lower Saxony on rue Montoyer, near the European Parliament, von der Leyen talked to German farmers’ representatives who have been pushing for a cull of the protected animals. Farmers, who protested outside the building, say increased numbers now threaten  their livestock and livelihood.

Dolly, the EC President’s pet pony, was killed by a wolf last year.

Speaking to the Brussels Signal, Udo Hemmerling, deputy secretary general of the Deutscher Bauernverband (German Farmer’s Association – DBV) revealed the content of the brief discussion. Von der Leyen told farmers that the EU need to “collect data” before any cull proposal. The Commission should be in a position to assess wolf numbers across the bloc before the end of the year, she said.

Hemmerling said he was hopeful that the Commission report would “lead to the decision” to take the wolf off the highest protective status. This he said would allow for a more “active regulated hunting of wolves.”

“Normally they are a protected species by law,” Hemmerling said. “This is not correct anymore, this has to be changed… The reason is we have so many killed sheep, goats, cows, and also ponies.”

“We have 4,000 killed and injured sheep and cattle last year, and this whole situation is getting out of hand.”

In the crush of journalists, representatives, local politicians, and heavily armed Brussels police, Von der Leyen herself almost slipped past under the radar. Only the small blonde bob indicated her presence beneath the crowd’s shoulder line, as she paused for some minutes to speak with the placard-holding, white-shirted farmers.

Herr Hemmerling (L) demonstrates alongside his fellow members of the Deutscher Bauernverband Credit: Aurore Martignoni, © European Union, 2023

The wolf question may give an indication regarding von der Leyen’s direction in the future Green Wars that are raging both in Brussels and across the EU’s Member States.

The centre-right EPP Group, to which von der Leyen belongs, has come under fire from left-liberal and Green parties for taking an increasingly defiant turn against the Green Agenda. Since this move has been led by the EPP’s parliamentary chief Manfred Weber, many hope that Ursula von der Leyen would set her group back on the green and narrow course.

To this end, the EU Parliament’s centre-left S&D Group issued a warning letter to her, asking her to stand by the Green Deal.

Farmers seemed optimistic.

Hemmerling said farmers were initially “very concerned about the packages” – referring to upcoming legislation such as the Nature Restoration law.  Rural voices were however finally making themselves heard in the Berlaymont, the EC headquarters, he said. The laws are now in inter-institutional negotiations, and he added that “we hope…the farmers can get ahead of it.”

He continued: “For a long time she was absolutely not [on our side]. But from the last year on the pressure from the farmers and the EPP party got higher. And then, she acted on the concerns of the farmers.”