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Italy animal rights groups decry Trentino bear cull law

Trentino province approves law to kill up to eight bears a year.

Animal rights groups in Italy say they will seek EU intervention after the northern autonomous province of Trentino approved a controversial decree authorising a bear cull.

The Trentino provincial council on Monday approved the law, backed by rightwing governor Maurizio Fugatti, that allows for the culling of up to eight "problematic" bears a year in 2024 and 2025.

The law stipulates that the eight culled bears can not comprise more than two adult females and two adult males, paving the way for authorities to cull up to four "sub-adult" bears.

The International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA) pledged to contest the law at European and national level, while the animal welfare organization Leal said it considered the law to be "evil".

The Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (ENPA) said it will lobby Giorgia Meloni's government to intervene and challenge the law at the constitutional court, noting: "Bears, until proven otherwise, are still a species particularly protected by European and Italian regulations."

"If the government does not intend to challenge this horrible and unacceptable law we are already ready to turn to the European Union" - ENPA stated - "and this would mean the probable opening of an infringement procedure against Italy for the violation of the Habitats Directive".

JJ4

Massimo Vitturi of the animal rights group LAV claims that the Trentino law is "in violation" of the EU Habitats Drective, adding that the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has yet to rule on the future of a female bear, known as JJ4, that attacked and killed a 26-year-old jogger in Trento last April.

Fugatti had ordered that JJ4 be caught and killed however the culling order was suspended by courts following an appeal by animal rights groups. The bear is currently being held in a wildlife facility.

This was the second reprieve for JJ4 after courts overruled Fugatti's order to kill the animal in 2020 after it attacked a father and son hiking in the same area where the jogger was killed.

M90

Last month forest rangers killed a bear, known as M90, on the orders of Fugatti who deemed the animal dangerous after it allegedy followed hikers on several occasions.

Italy's environment minister Gilberto Pichetto said at the time that "culling cannot be the only solution", stressing that it should be the "last resort".

Life Ursus

The bears were reintroduced in Trentino after being imported from Slovenia in 1999 as part of the Life Ursus scheme.

The project had originally envisaged about 50 bears in the province but the population has since swelled to around 100 animals.

Fugatti has repeatedly claimed that the scheme has "got out of hand", saying that bear numbers need to be reduced to "an adequate level" to guarantee coexistence with local communities.

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