“transhumance is no longer a party, we ride animals with a ball in their bellies” testify of breeders

In the Pyrenees, the period of the summer grasslands had begun. A pivotal moment when the herd goes up the mountain meadow. But in the face of the bear’s presence, breeders no longer conceal their anguish as evidenced by three of them.

The bear scared them. For themselves, but above all for their herds, some of which went to the high pastures of the Pyrenees. A symbol of pastoralism, summer pastures have become the most vulnerable places for sheep, cows and horses in the face of plant attacks. Some breeders have lost hundreds of animals, others have not, but all live every day with anguish in the face of disruption, criticism, but also an ever-evolving profession. This is the confession of 3 of them confided on France 3 Occitanie.

“The closer we got to D-Day for the ultrasound, the more things lessened. We still had a fear of having to face the bear’s presence and everything that was going to happen. Even when I didn’t see the bear. , I also fear for all shepherds, especially on the summer pastures of the Couserans, where many carnivores are concentrated. I have been taking antidepressants since 2019 after being stoned. When I say that it’s not bears knocking on our animals’ doors, we’re considered liars, and that hurts even more.

Sometimes this situation drives me completely crazy. For a year, I stopped talking to the media, I was completely blank. It drove me crazy. I have become a zombie. The bear problem cuts you off from the social environment. I have three daughters who are going to school. I don’t want them to be criticized and say “your dad is bear-proof. He’s against everything”. No, I’m not. I’m for biodiversity, for ecosystems, for a reality. We mean “that was a big mistake, this is not the Pyrenees it used to be”. There is a real pastoral economy. We will solve the puzzle. If we are no longer on the mountain meadow, that is a whole space that will no longer be maintained. It would be an ecological disaster. We risk losing all this wealth. We are considered less than nothing. Me, my animals, if they’re not healthy, I’m not as productive as it should be and I’m not alive.

We are not heard, we are not heard. All of this pisses me off. We captured one more shepherd, for a total of three. But we will not spend all our money on shepherds, knowing that this does not limit hunting. We did not use other means of coexistence, because none were effective. We then used other means, which I cannot disclose to you, for our own, personal protection. Because we don’t want to be shot. In 2005, 62 of our animals were compensated after being knocked down. In 2019, 265 animals were also killed after another similar event. Compensation never replaces lost animals.

We work with life. Not with objects. What pisses me off is that we use our animals to do everything. The bear is considered a living creature, but not a sheep, not a cow, not a horse. After a detachment, there is everything to redo. But that doesn’t happen overnight. We had a herd passed down by our elders, my great-grandparents, and we had to redo everything. In the end, I hit my head, exhausted.”

“Animals will appear in the next few days. We have forgotten about the bear all winter. Dear friend. Currently, there are no attacks. The lack of recognition by the State leaves us abandoned. in the face of a bear that weighed us down. We didn’t really have effective means of protection. We saw that, and getting destroyed didn’t help.

The goal is to get all my sheep right down. Before, I lost three or four sheep, one fell ill, one fell. Today, that’s between 20 and 30 every summer. I have been verbally attacked by tourists regarding compensation issues. I replied to them: “Imagine that I kill your dog and I give you 1000 euros to buy the same dog with the same name. How do you react?” With guard dogs, this creates tension with approaching tourists. I understand that they are afraid, that they do not feel comfortable. I was offended, but you have to know that they were imposed on us and we had no choice. The dog is doing its job. I feel miserable and abandoned. I don’t blame the animal, but the people who manage it. It starts off heavy and especially we always get the impression that it’s our fault.

Genetics is done for decades. It is not a pebble. It is something unique. We bought expensive rams for the best genetics possible in the herd and we culled them. The public misunderstands our work and confuses us with big farms in the plains. We only have 200 sheep. I come at a point where I either hate it or I’m fed up. If tomorrow I attend my flock, I don’t know if I will come home or not.”

“We’re not reassured. For the past few years, it’s gotten worse every summer. Even if I’m in an area where we’re not too affected right now, we’re not. I still have this stress. I fear for my animals” who are in superhuman status, but also for the three shepherds and shepherds who work for my team. I intentionally put these people in jeopardy over the summer. Humans are not immune to these attacks.

It’s been a few years for me being transgender is no longer a party. We ride the animals, the ball in the belly. Especially when you see the non-moving state. The effect we can have on our animals is completely ignored. “The sheep is dead. We’re giving you a check now shut up.” Basically, that’s it. We don’t do this job because of the allowance. We do it for the love of livestock. I chose to settle in the mountains, to maintain the tradition, to maintain the space. It is a whole.

We do not care about our work as breeders and even less about our animals. We are required to put in place safeguards that we know are not effective. We spent our time there knowing it wouldn’t work, knowing we would have to fill out administrative forms, go up the mountain to count our dead animals, protect the rights of the ranchers in the important but painful compensation commission. It feels like you’re fighting the windmills. When I do not know the opinion of a person, in front of me, with the bear, I do not want to talk about it. I know it hurts to hear the comments and prejudices they have about us like “you care, you get compensated”. It’s hard. I prefer to avoid.

Hurting not only loses your animal, but also loses part of your job, an animal you care about, it’s really psychologically uncomfortable to be eaten. At the beginning of the installation, I was attacked by a dog. I have seen her with my own eyes. It was a shock. It took me several weeks to recover. We don’t realize the trauma the breeder feels. Every time my phone rang and it was the shepherds’ number, I was always afraid that there was a problem, predation. Every summer meadow, it’s very sad. What worries me is that one day, a rancher commits suicide.”

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