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Living with the wolf

A Luhmannian perspective on the human-wolf

conflict in Redes Natural Park, Spain

Isabeau Ottolini

April 2018

MSc Thesis CPT-81330

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Living with the wolf

A Luhmannian perspective on the human-wolf conflict in Redes

Natural Park, Spain

Written by:

Isabeau Romaine Ottolini

Registration number: 920204-633-010

Contact: [email protected]

Submission date: 23th of April, 2018

Written for :

Wageningen University and Research

Master Development and Rural Innovation

Strategic Communication Chair Group

Course code: CPT-81330


Arjaan Pellis & Jasper de Vries


Dr. ir. JM (Annemarie) van Paassen

Image title page: Patricia Ropohl. The Iberian wolf in the ever-changing environment

mailto:[email protected]

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to exist on what has caused such changes, and as such, it is hard to find actor(s) whom can be

held responsible for the changes. So far, conceptualising the human-wolf conflict appears to be

a challenging endeavour, and what emerges is not a sole definition that unmistakably delineates

what the conflict is. Instead, as one advances through the field, more and more aspects emerge,

which reveal the multiplicity of topics related to the conflict. In the next section reference is

made to the role of politics and the media in the conflict, as aspects that further complicate

understanding what the human-wolf conflict in Redes is.

5.2.5. Politics, the media and the conflict

Oftentimes a great deal of the conflict is attributed to the meddling of politicians and the use

of the wolf conflict discourse for political ends e.g. i.4, i.28. As several interviewees explain, it

seems the conflict worsens when there are major events occurring at political level, such as

discussions on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), whereby the wolf is pointed out as the

biggest problem of the rural world, while at the same time covering up other issues (e.g. unfair

economic competition) e.g. O.4, i.27, i.28. This whilst many believe the wolf is by far not the biggest

nor most urgent issue ganaderos face. As one local inhabitant tells, “the wolf is the top of the

iceberg, an additional problem, but the rural world has many more problems” i.17. Moreover,

a politician tells the wolf issue is used as political propaganda to gain votes from the rural

communities i.28, as an interviewee illustrates by claiming to have heard a ganadero mention to

“vote whoever says to kill all wolves and gives most subventions” i.6. Mainly the right-wing

political parties are pointed out as involved in lobbying and increasing the wolf problem, by

meeting with ganaderos and hunters; promising to cull more wolves; organizing frequent press

releases; posing questions in parliamentary meetings; summoning ganaderos to report all

livestock deaths as caused by the wolf; and criticizing other political parties e.g. i.4, i.28, i.24. For

example, during the wolf conference several politicians from opposing parties said that if they

were governing they would ensure more wolfs being culled, to the dismay of other political

parties who disregard it as a solution O.4. Altogether, it must also be said that many respondents

mention Spanish politics lack a culture of dialogue and reaching agreements e.g. i.10, i.22, i.24.

On the whole, it appears the Asturian government “is between two fires”: on one hand is the

environmentalist and/or urban population, which idealizes the wolf as an icon of wild nature,

while on the other hand the ganaderos and /or rural population point out the wolf as their biggest

enemy i.23. As a government official points out, this confrontation between strongly polarized

groups is happening all around the rural world i.27, and with the government being in the middle,

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it will always be criticized for whatever actions taken (or not), even if a balance between the

interests of different actors is attempted to be achieved i.7.

Another actor that is also seen as standing in the middle and receives criticism from both sides

is the media. The media is held responsible for worsening the conflict, oftentimes through

sensationalistic stories e.g.i.3, i.8, i.16. Some believe that if the wolf topic would not appear so much

in the media it would not be such a problem. One ex-ranger relates it to the current issues of

Catalan Independence and the use of sensationalistic photos: “all day long talking about the

wolf, about Catalunya, and people turn something small into something big […]. But as they

are all day long putting photos of a wolf hanging from a tree and then a photo of a dead flock

of sheep […], you create controversy”i.8 (see Image 19 and Image 20)

Image 19. Dead sheep found near Orlé, in Redes. Source: El

Comercio (Varela, 2017)

Image 20. Dead wolf hanging from a

signpost in Teverga, Asturias. Source:

FAPAS, 2017

The media is blamed, often by nature conservationists, for only giving voice to the ganaderos

e.g. i.3, i.6, O.4, and leaving out other involved sectors i.3. Whilst it might be so that news comes

more often from ganaderos narrating the negative side of the wolf, those who have more

positive stories to tell, such as nature conservationists, lack the initiative to make it heard

through traditional media such as the newspaper or the television i.24. Moreover, a biologist

explains the government takes little initiative in using the media as a way to adequately inform

people about the wolf conflict or to rectify false information before it starts gaining a life of its

own and increasing the conflict i.3. Additionally, the media is criticized for the generalized lack

of in-depth knowledge on the topic, as often lay people write about it, besides the incapacity to

reflect upon the bigger picture of what is actually going on, therefore some propose news must

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