Wolves and horses victims of organised fraud in Asturias

by Lorraine Williamson
organised fraud involving horses
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ASTURIAS – In the Autonomous Community of Asturias in north-west Spanish , a group of livestock farmers have made false declarations of damage caused by wolves. This organised fraud is according to a publication by the Spanish Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals (Fapas). 

Following this information, an investigation was ordered by the court and the municipality of Castropol. After 2 years of investigation, 6 farmers from Asturias were arrested. They were accused of taking more than €60,000 of public money from the Asturian government. They were also found to have killed 6 wolves that were part of a pack living in Asturias and Galicia.  

Organised fraud

In November 2020, a veterinarian in Asturias already denounced irregular practices before the Court of Castropol. Livestock owners reported attacks on horses, pointing to the wolf as the cause. However, the investigation revealed that these allegations were false and that the complainants had a very specific modus operandi.

They separated foals from their mothers and then left them in the wilderness. This was to lure the wolves into attacking the young animals. Therefore, they were able to collect compensation of up to €900 per animal; a profit of between €600-700 per animal. Some of the animals were bought in Galicia, where prices are lower. The Asturian vet also cited that farmers were fattening up the wolves so that they would come closer to the farms. This led the court to open an investigation by the Spanish nature protection service Seprona. 

In total, more than 170 horses were killed and linked to the case between 2019 and 2020. In some cases, ranchers falsified documents to collect a double subsidy, feigning the death of the same animal twice in a 6-month period.  

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Officers conducted several searches and seized weapons and mobile phones. The investigation revealed that the 6 people involved were farmers in western Asturias. Furthermore, they defrauded the government of more than €60,000. They are accused of crimes such as fraud, animal cruelty, acts against wildlife, false charges and concealment. 

Beaten to death and left by the roadside 

The wolves were lured to the farms, and after attacking the foals, they continued to attack livestock. The ranchers lured the wolves with handmade bait that may have contained substances to stun them. They then beat the animals to death and left them by the side of the road to divert attention and pretend they had been accidentally run over. 

The case also brings charges of negligence against 3 nature managers in Asturias who signed deeds for damage caused by the wolf. This was done without having evidence that the damage was actually caused by the wolf. The head of the Asturian Hunting and Fisheries Service is also under investigation for having granted subsidies of more than €30,000 from public funds without having sufficient proof. 

Going on for years 

It is a step forward in Asturias, where a policy for farmers and against wolves seems to be in force. It is not the animal that is bad, but the incompetent politicians, so we call for the resignation of those directly or indirectly involved in this case’, stresses the National Association of Animals with Rights and Freedom (Anadel).  

The Seprona’s investigation has taken two years, but such practices have been occurring in Asturias for years. The judge leading the investigation is also looking into a possible tip from a Guardia Civil agent. The first results of this investigation will come to light during the great debate that has ensued following the decision of the Ministry of Ecological Transition to better protect the wolf in Spain. 

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