An estimated 3,000 people took part in yesterday’s Big Bad Wolf torchlit parade to protest at the presence of wolves running wild in the Flemish countryside.
The wolves are mainly present in Limburg province, and the parade gathered in the village of Oudsbergen just north of Genk. Many of those taking part were local farmers, whose livestock have been attacked by wolves in recent weeks.
When the parade set off, it crossed a field where two Shetland ponies and a young cow were recently killed. Hanging on the fence were photos of dead sheep; “This is the work of the wolf,” read the text.
“This is a clear signal to the government: more attention must be paid to the wolf problem that farmers and hobby farmers in this region are confronted with almost every day,” organisers told Belang van Limburg.
The torches, rather than in medieval times, were electronic. The marchers demand that either they be allowed to bring in hunters, or that protection be increased some other way. At present hunting is not permitted, although there is a fear that someone will soon take the law into their own hands.
Marco Goossens (CD&V), mayor of Oudsbergen, had not forbidden the march, but he did impose strict conditions. No alcohol, and everything must be over by midnight.
"I understand the concern of our residents and their desire to express it in this way," said Goossens.
“This march is there to make it clear to everyone, including city residents, that we want to get rid of this wolf nuisance in the countryside. We are not against the wolf, but want to express our concern about the current state of affairs, especially to the government," said some young farmers. “Any animal killed by a wolf is a loss. Financially and also emotionally.”
The previous night, from Thursday to Friday, a cow was bitten to death in Hechtel-Eksel, about 20km from Oudsbergen, and well within the range of a grown wolf.