French farmers are demanding that the Giro d’Italia be banned from bringing its mascot – a wolf, or more precisely, a person in a wolf costume – to France when the race crosses the border later this month, saying its presence will be a “pure provocation” to Alpine farmers.
Lupo Wolfie has been the race’s official mascot since December 2015, replacing the previous mascot, a mountain goat named Girbecco.
This year’s 99th edition of the race heads crosses the border into France in its closing days, with Stage 19 finishing in Risoul and the following day’s penultimate stage beginning in Guillestre, both in the Hautes-Alpes department.
But JA 05, the local branch of national young farmers’ organisation Jeunes Agriculteurs, aren’t happy about Lupo Wolfie accompanying the race on its visit, reports the Dauphiné Libéré.
Livestock breeders have suffered for many years due to the predatory behaviour of wolves,” they said in a press release.
“Our union is fighting to carry out our profession with dignity, that is to say, to protect our herds and flocks from these predators.
“The use of such a mascot – moreover, one supported by environmental organisations – in the middle of our pastures is a pure provocation which is not humanly acceptable to our breeders.
“Farmers can no longer bear seeing the wolf presented to public opinion as a cute stuffed toy.”
According to Telegraph.co.uk, the wolf population in France has trebled over the past decade, and now numbers some 300 animals.
Growth in numbers has been accompanied by a rise in the number of attacks on livestock attributed to wolves, and the government has given the green-light to limited culls in areas most at risk.
However, with the wolf protected under the Bern convention, at most 36 animals a year can be killed.
JA 05 say they have asked local elected officials to ban Lupo Wolfie from the Hautes-Alpes.
“If nothing is done to make this mascot remain in Italy, we will take action,” they warn.
What form any action may take hasn’t been revealed. It’s clear though that for the region’s farmers, it is an emotive issue.
Last September, 50 of them “bossnapped” the president and the director of the Vanoise national park in the Hautes-Alpes after a meeting, holding them hostage in a town hall overnight and demanding more wolves be culled.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.