French court overturns hunt decree on endangered bird

The Conseil d'État, the highest administrative court in France, has overturned a ministerial decree that had previously allowed the hunting of the threatened bird species, the curlew.

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On Tuesday August 27, the court ordered the immediate suspension of the decree. The case had been brought to court by bird protection group, la Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux (LPO).

The order read: “The suspension of the enforcement of this order must be imposed so far as it sets, at a number greater than zero, the total number of authorised removals of curlews across the entire metropolitan area.”

The original decree was made by ecology minister Elisabeth Borne on July 31, and had authorised, from August 3, the public hunting of the bird on the Atlantic and northern coasts. It was set to allow hunting for the rest of the country, from September 15.

It set the number of birds authorised for hunting at 6,000 - despite the curlew being classified as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and listed as "decreasing" on its Red List.

It came just months after the government was accused of pandering to the hunting lobby by former ecology minister Nicolas Hulot, after the price of a hunting permit was halved, and new “adaptive management” measures were announced to replace the existing list of “huntable species”.

The LPO called on the Conseil d'État to overturn the authorisation, and was happy with this week’s decision.

In a press release issued afterwards, it said: “A zero quota for hunting curlew! The government’s strategy of using the principle of ‘adaptive management’ with a view to allowing the hunting of vulnerable wildlife species has been thwarted once again.”

But a statement from the hunting group la Fédération Nationale des Chasseurs de France said that the community was very disappointed in the court decision, and added that the LPO’s actions were merely “ideological” and “made on no scientific basis”.

It said that it had taken steps to ensure that all hunting quotas were respected, and had even set up an app that shows, in real time, the number of birds killed.

In a statement, it said: “The outstretched hand of French hunting, to open a new era of species management, was not accepted.”

This is not the first time this year that the Conseil d'État has overturned a hunting authorisation; in February, it did the same to a decree that had allowed wild goose hunting.

Now, the LPO is worried about the European turtle-dove, which is also endangered ("vulnerable") by the IUCN. The group said that the minister is set to allow “the killing of 30,000 birds despite the species being globally threatened with extinction”.

Allain Bougrain Dubourg, LPO president, said: “We are now anxiously yet determinedly awaiting the decision [from Ms Borne].

“We are anxious because it is likely that she will again authorise the hunting of a species in a very poor state of conservation; but determined because all of these incomprehensible decisions help our complaint at European level.”

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