France accused of failing to protect endangered birds

Bird protection campaigners are to lodge an official complaint with the European Union accusing France of breaking rules on hunting and trapping and failing to protect endangered species.

The Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is using the 40th anniversairy of the EU’s “bird directive”, which outlaws the “massive or non-selective” killing of birds to highlight what it deems cruel and illegal methods.

These includes gluesticks covered in adhesive lime and set in trees or bushes to catch birds when they land, traps that crush the birds with heavy stones, and nooses.

The LPO says it was forced to act after the French government refused to respond to its complaints and the state council approved gluesticks, saying the method was traditional and there was no other satisfactory method of trapping the birds.

Stone crush traps, once banned for a century, were legalised in France in 2005 and are also considered unnecessarily cruel as often the birds do not die instantly.

Wood pigeons, skylarks, grey geese and curlew are all fair game for French bird hunters, despite a decline in certain species. Legal hunting periods and species quotas are set for different departments, but the LPO says these are often ignored.

Kim Dallet, the LPO spokeswoman, said the Ligue had lodged numerous complaints to the French government over methods of hunting birds and the targeting of threatened species but often without response.

“To mark the anniversary of the EU directive, we’re taking it up to European level, which will hopefully force the French government to respond and to respect the directive,” she said.

She added: “We have species of bird in a bad way in terms of conservation that are still being hunted in France, which is absolutely against the directive. French hunters can kill around 63 different species while in other countries in Europe it’s 20-30 at the most. Also hunters in France do not respect the agreed hunting period or local prefects give them extra hours or days to hunt.

“I don’t know what it is about hunting in France, perhaps because we have more of a hunting tradition. But the situation has to evolve.”

Two reports by French researchers last year found the number of birds in rural areas had dropped by a third in 15 years, partly because of intensive farming and the “massive use of pesticides”.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, joined a hunt during his 40th birthday celebrations at the Château de Chambord in December 2017. “Hunting is a wonderful advantage for biodiversity, development of our rural territory and a popular activity to safeguard,” he told the hunting lobby.

Chasseurs de France tweeted a picture of Macron with hunters, saying he had “praised the contribution of hunting to nature”, which brought a swift response from the Elysée that the photo should not be published as Macron had specifically banned pictures being taken.


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