Wineries fencing off vineyards in Judean Hills face boycott calls – Haaretz

SPNI says 16-km barrier near Jerusalem endangers wildlife.
By Zafrir Rinat

The fencing of vineyards in the Judean Hills is creating death traps for wild animals, leading nature and animal rights groups to consider calling for a consumer boycott of the wineries behind the practice.

According to data collected by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Let the Animals Live, Barkan Wineries have put up 16 kilometers of fencing in the Arazim Valley near Jerusalem and on the ridges west of the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion.
Barkan Wineries

Fences going up around the Barkan Wineries in the Arazim Valley.
Photo by: Dov Greenblat / SPNI

The purpose of the fencing is to prevent gazelles from eating the plants.

“This area is an important ecological corridor through which animals, including gazelles, can move,” Amir Balaban, of the SPNI, says. “The corridor has already narrowed due to the building of the separation fence to its north and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway to its south,” he added.

In many cases the animals are injured when they run into the fencing. In other cases, when gazelles become entangled in the fences, they are easy prey for predators like hyenas, jackals and feral dogs.

While no injuries have been documented by the new fences, according to the SPNI, fences put up some years ago injured a number of gazelles, and one trapped gazelle was killed by a predator.

Barkan has to change its policies on fencing, the SPNI’s deputy director general, Moshe Pakman, said yesterday, as “part of the company’s corporate responsibility.”

Pakman said the SPNI had already approached Barkan Wineries on the matter and if the response it seeks is not forthcoming, it would approach Heineken, one of the owners of Tempo, which is Barkan’s major shareholder.

“If we don’t make the change through dialogue, we will call on consumers not to buy their products because of the company’s responsibility for harming nature,” Yonatan Spiegal, legal adviser to Let the Animals Live, said.

The SPNI said fencing was not the only way to prevent gazelles from damaging plants; they could be covered with plastic sleeves in their early stages of growth or other vegetation could be planted that the gazelles would eat instead of the vines.

Barkan Wineries responded: “This land has belonged to the moshavim for 60 years and Barkan Wineries are only the contractors that plant the vines.”

Barkan also said all relevant bodies had been consulted before the vines were planted on the Beit Nekofa land, including the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Barkan said it was later decided jointly with the Agriculture Ministry to plant experimental plots without fencing. “When the experiment is concluded, the costs will be calculated and if the vineyard is eaten by gazelles, the Agriculture Ministry and other bodies involved in the experiment will pay for the damage and the area will be replanted and fenced.”

Animal rights group campaigns against vineyard fencing – Jerusalem Post

Says some species of gazelles will be more susceptible to predators, with narrower access to open areas.
Talkbacks (3)

From the window of a pickup truck rumbling along a rocky dirt path and into the forest toward Har Adar, a giant statue of a gazelle came into view.

“We’re afraid that this is the only thing we’ll have left,” Amir Balaban, ecologist and director of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Isral, told The Jerusalem Post during a journalists’ tour of the area on Tuesday.

In the distance and below the Belmont Castle area of the Crusaders and Castel National Park were in full view, as was a brand new concrete development coming from the Kiryat Anavim community and hillsides of new wineries, surrounded in barbed wire fences.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), along with an NGO called Let the Animals Live, has launched an ongoing campaign to stop the vineyard owners Barkan Wineries – from erecting fences around their grapes, which while protecting the fruit from hungry gazelles, also pose a danger to these animals and others, according to the organizations.

In very recent weeks, as the wineries themselves are quite new, 16 kilometers of fencing have been laid in the Beit Nekofa and Arazim Valley areas, both located outside Jerusalem and near Abu Ghosh, a spokesman from SPNI explained. About 455 dunams of land are fenced in at Beit Nekofa, and another 150 dunams are similarly enclosed at Arazim.

“SPNI is gravely concerned that fencing off some 600 dunams of previously agricultural open space obstructs the ecological corridor completely, posing a serious threat to native gazelles and many other species that live in the region,” the spokesman said in a statement.

“With nowhere to run, gazelles are also falling more easily to hunters and predator species.”

After examining other vineyards that were built some time ago with fences, Balaban said that SPNI experts observed “a change in the natural habitat,” a phenomenon they fear will occur here.

Along the dirt road, Balaban pointed out how now both sides of the path are lined narrowly with vineyard fences.

“The gazelle can only pass through here – so the hyenas and jackals know that,” Balaban said. “They have no choice – they have to pass through.”

And while most pass through at night, a few gazelles were actually trotting along the road below that morning.

“When a gazelle runs he runs instinctively – he simply runs,” Balaban reminded the tour group, noting that they oftentimes get injured just by running into the fencing.

“The main thing is that around the world, this conflict is very known, and there are lots of solutions that don’t include this kind of harmful acts toward the animals,” Yonatan Shpigel, an advocate for Let the Animals Live, told the Post. “Here in Israel there was no discussion, no discourse – nothing. We just woke up one morning to find all these harmful objects to all the animals and to the area.”

Some alternatives, according to Balaban, would be protecting individual plants with plastic barriers, or planting new, additional food sources in the area that might attract the gazelles away from the grapes.

Leaders from the two groups said they met with Barkan CEO Shmuel Boxer, but received no direct response, and also unsuccessfully tried to get answers from Barkan parent company Tempo, so they will now be reaching out to international umbrella organization Heineken.

In a statement to journalists, Barkan answered that concerns regarding the wineries in the mountains near Jerusalem must be directed to the Beit Nekofa moshav, and that Barkan Wineries are simply contractors of the area, which has in the past featured olive groves that were completely consumed by gazelles. The company also said that planting vineyards in the area has been coordinated with all related bodies, including SPNI, and that the Agriculture Ministry has approved the fencing except for an area of 20 dunams. Within that area, the Barkan statement explained, experiments are being conducted to try to prevent gazelle attacks in ways beyond using fences.

“If the trial does not succeed and all will be eaten by the gazelles, the Agriculture Ministry and legal bodies will pay for all the damages caused by the gazelles and the area will be newly fenced and planted,” the statement said.

After hearing this response, the SPNI spokesman said in a statement that their organization had never agreed to any such fencing.

“We regret that Barkan Wineries, the beneficiaries of the products of the vineyards, prefer to spin the responsibility onward – to the growers – instead of adopting an approach that takes the environment into consideration,” the spokesman said.