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May 17, 2022

Szekelys and bears

Preoccupied with far more serious political issues, Romanians are little preoccupied with what is happening with the bears. In a world in which species of animals are disappearing day after day, to have bears is no mean feat. But along with forests, wildly cut down in a quasi-general indifference, now forest animals risk becoming drastically fewer. Meanwhile, instead of the voices of their defenders, the voices of their enemies are being heard. Who, of course, invoke doubtless humanism. If two shepherds have just been attacked by a bear, some clamour that it’s the right time for the Government to resort to a much stricter “numerus clausus” against bears. In other words, in order to protect people, it’s time to send in the hunters to preventively shoot hundreds of bears. The Szekelys are at the head of this bloody crusade. Owners of Carpathian lands still riddled with bears, the Szekelys are dissatisfied with European provisions. Indeed, EU today sides with the animals, via refined humanism that is trying to look onto animals more responsibly, not with the arrogance of the one who can pull the trigger at any moment.

Is the situation truly so dramatic? Specialists state that culling – namely killing a certain number of animals – does not reduce their attempts to procure food from the peasants’ herds. Normally, the state should pay damages, but it seems the Romanian state is not really doing that, which has angered those who have incurred losses. Likewise, we are far from a horror film in which bears are ready to invade with the intent to exterminate us. The fact that they no longer find sufficient food in the forests is also due to the reduction of their natural habitat, through deforestation. At any rate, there certainly are other strategies too, less brutal, to keep them away from human settlements. But the main suspicion in such a polemic is that the hunters’ lobby is behind this “humanist” alarmism. Shooting a bear brings in a lot of money for some, hunting tourism being an extremely profitable business. The more so since a fair number of Romanian politicians have a passion for hunting. Let us recall how much time Adrian Nastase was allocating to hunting pursuits. A passion also shared by a prosperous businessman like Ion Tiriac, whose property periodically hosts the biggest massacres of animals in the country. Among so many high-level hunters, Klaus Iohannis strikes a different note. Asked whether he accompanied Donald Trump’s son on his hunting trip in the Carpathians, the Head of State pointed out he loves living animals, not carcasses. But it’s likely not even the President will be able to stop the slaughter.

Inevitably, UDMR politicians are at the head of the Szekelys. Starting with the Chairman of the Harghita County Council, who is even asking for the skipping of the brief public consultation invoked by the Environment Ministry – which gave in after several hundred UDMR mayors and Szekely peasants protested outside its headquarters in Bucharest. A request that seeks to eliminate, at least in this case, the provisions favouring decisional transparency. Presenting the bears as a danger more pressing than ISIS, the UDMR leader wants the hunt to start even as early as tomorrow. The guns are ready.

In fact, while some UDMR leaders are responsible for damaging the forest patrimony, now the same party is in a hurry to also thin-out the large game. Specialists claim that counting them – which is also the responsibility of the… hunters – is a process based on a doubtful method, and its results may hide the artificial hiking of the real number of bears, even without ill-faith. So that the overpopulation argument may be a rather “political” one. In the 1990s, UDMR seemed, for those not blinded by nationalism, a chance for the local political climate, in the sense of a firmer commitment to some European values. Unfortunately, as time passed, UDMR became the captive of its strategy of remaining in power as long as possible, as part of any coalition, which transformed it into a rather reactionary party. The forests and the bears are but one aspect of this change of direction. If we were to be malicious, we could even say that in an autonomous Szekely Land the bears would disappear, as a species, even faster than in current conditions. The same sad outlook would have been in store for bears in a Romania in which Adrian Nastase would have become President. Too bad only dogs took part in the protests against OUG 13. Surely, if possible, bears would have showed up too. The ones whom the alliance between business and politics threatens with premature extinction.

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