France reviews reauthorising traditional net and cage bird hunts

The government says that any hunting, which would involve thrushes and blackbirds, will be done in compliance with EU law but the LPO bird protection organisation is strongly opposed

A blackbird on a branch
The new decrees could allow the hunting of more than 100,000 birds, including blackbirds
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Another day, another twist in the traditional bird hunting saga in France, as the government looks to reauthorise hunting with nets and cages in possible contravention of EU law.

The government is consulting on the possibility of issuing decrees that could once again authorise the practices.

However, bird protection agency the Ligue de protection des oiseaux (LPO) has said that it will take the issue to the Conseil d'Etat (the highest, supreme administrative court in France) if the decrees are signed.

Read more: Traditional bird hunting methods used in parts of France ruled illegal

It comes after the Conseil d’Etat banned traditional bird hunting practices in 2021. The texts currently up for discussion, from July 21 to August 10, concern:

  • The capture of lapwings and golden plovers using nets in Ardennes
  • The capture of skylarks using pantes (nets) in Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne and Pyrénées-Atlantiques
  • The capture of skylarks using matoles (cages) in Landes and Lot-et-Garonne.

Together the decrees could allow the capture of more than 100,000 birds.

The government has said: “The decision to publish these draft texts will take into account the judgement of the Conseil d’Etat on the merits of the ongoing litigation concerning the decree on hunting quotas for the 2021/2022 season.”

It comes after the Conseil d’Etat, at the request of environmental groups, suspended in 2021 government decrees that authorised traditional bird hunting techniques.

Judges also said that the government’s plan to reauthorise the hunting of birds including thrushes, blackbirds, lapwings, golden plovers, and skylarks, with nets or cages, risked contravening European law, and that there was a “serious doubt over their legality”.

The European Birds Directive of 2009 prohibits the mass capture of birds without distinction of species.

Exceptions are allowed only “if it is duly justified and when 'there is no other satisfactory solution' for capturing certain birds".

However, the ecology ministry has said that it would enforce "training for hunters in order to educate them on the mandatory rules for practising this traditional hunting in compliance with European Union law". This would include "the carrying out of checks", "a system for recording the catches made" and "obligations to avoid any animal suffering", it said.

However, the LPO has said that it will fight any new hunting authorisations.

LPO president Allain Bougrain Dubourg said: “[If it changes] the so-called ‘ecological five-year period’ promised by President Emmanuel Macron will not have lasted long.

“If the decrees are signed, the LPO will immediately attack them before the Conseil d’Etat.”

In a tweet, the LPO asked ironically: “Hail, heatwaves, fires, pesticides…are these not enough [to threaten the bird population]?”

President Macron has been criticised by the LPO in recent years for taking what they say are decisions in favour of hunters, in a bid to retain votes from the influential group.

Read more: New twist for hunters in France: Songbird trapping banned again

The controversy is the latest in a long-running dispute in France, with the traditional hunting practices having been repeatedly legalised, outlawed and legalised again over the years.

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