According to an article on the website of Belgian newspaper De Morgen, the EU has decided that in order to exterminate the raccoon from EU countries the only solution is to shoot them. We rate the claim as mostly false.
On April 5, De Morgen reported on the increasing nuisance of raccoons in Flanders. The cute and seemingly cuddly animals kill chickens and can cause harm to humans by biting and carrying parasites. ‘What to do? Shoot them, says the European Union’, the article reads, suggesting that the raccoons have to be shot because it was added to a European blacklist for invasive species, which EU member states are obligated to combat.
The list that the article is referring to is called the ‘list of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern’, or ‘the Union list’ in short. The list was established in 2014 based on an EU regulation concerning the management of invasive species and is regularly updated. The raccoon is indeed on there, but what’s curious is that the animal was added years ago, on August 3, 2016.
But what does the mention on the list mean for the raccoon? In other words, what actions are required by the EU member states when species are added to the list? ‘Member States are required to take action on […] the early detection and rapid eradication of these species’, the accompanying text on the list’s website reads. That might sound like member states don’t have much choice but to just shoot them.
But when we dive into the underlying legal text we find that it is not an obligation to outright kill the invasive species. Article 19 (2) clearly states that ‘the management measures shall consist of lethal or non-lethal physical, chemical or biological actions.’ Furthermore, the text explicitly says that ‘non-lethal methods should be considered’. One expert in the Belgian article acknowledges that there are ‘more humane ways to contain the rise of the raccoon. ‘You can trap them and bring them to animal shelters. And if there is no other way, there is the option of euthanasia.’
The raccoon has indeed been added to the list of invasive species and has to be controlled either way. In principle the population has to be wiped out, but the regulation leaves room for interpretation. ‘In the event that eradication is not feasible or the costs of eradication outweigh the environmental, social and economic benefits in the long term, containment and control measures should be applied.’ The text does not specify when eradication would not be feasible or when costs outweigh the benefits.
In conclusion, the fact that raccoons have been added to the invasive species list means that the European population has to be curtailed. But it is not specified how that has to be done; they may be shot, but don’t have to be. Furthermore, member states can turn to control measures if they decide that eradication is not feasible. We rate the claim as mostly false.
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