‘All the swans have been systematically butchered, one by one.’ Veterinarian surgeon Saskia van Rooy again sounds the alarm about the swans in the Groene Hart region in the central Netherlands.
The animals are shot by the thousands, with an exemption from the Provincial Executive. ‘Because they cause nuisance’, claim the hunters and a handful of farmers.
Not true, says Harm Niesen of Faunabescherming, the Dutch society for the protection of wildlife. Swans cause no, or virtually no, nuisance whatsoever. A study by the current affairs programme EenVandaag shows that the Provincial Executive paid only 4,000 euros in compensation to farmers who claimed to have suffered damage caused by swans. No damage was reported in Stolwijk, the area where dr. Van Rooy lives, last year. Still, all the swans in that area were shot.
Dr. Saskia de Rooy has followed and recorded the hunters and swan herding permit holders for years. Over the past few months, she has mostly focused on the swan shooting practices. Again, she has recorded misconduct. The images show, among other things, how the swans are being caught by the hounds.
In May 2015 EenVandaag did an episode on gross misconduct in ‘swan herding’. To be able to keep the swans, they are pinioned, amputating part of the wing to keep the swans from flying. They are then ringed and their beaks tattooed.
Based on the reports, State Secretary Dijksma announced a prohibition on swan herding that would take effect on 1 July 2016. However, it is not at all certain that that date will be met, because the new Flora and Fauna Act has been postponed.
But it also turned out that, two months after the exemption had been revoked by the State Secretary, the swan herders simply continued their practices with hardly any intervention from the police.
The police hardly seem to intervene when the swans are shot either. The motions of the swans that have been shot are said to be convulsions. Or at least that is what the hunters claim. But the images show swans that have been hit and are then caught by the hounds, without the hunter intervening.
Other swans are found with their wings shot to pieces. Left behind by the hunters, which is a mortal sin among hunters.
Between 11 and 21 April six swan herders will stand trial for violation of the Flora and Fauna Act. Piet Oostveen, an infamous swan herder, died before he could face the court. In an interview with Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, his son Bep Oostveen said that he was glad ‘his father did not live to see all the fuzz about the trials’.