The Ardennes: trapping with horsehair snares
During the trapping saesonHalf a million horsehair snares are set out in extensive moorland in the Ardennes in Northern France, scarcely 2 hours drive from Aachen.
This trapping method is as perfidious and at the same time simple. An extremely fine snare made from a hair from a horse’s tail is set out next to fresh rowan berries. To get at the berries the bird has to stick its head through the snare. It then takes fright at the touch and tries to fly away. The snare closes and throttles the bird (the German word for throttle - erdrossel - originates from this trapping method by which mainly thrushes - Drossel - are caught. Countless tits, Robins and finches end of course as well as by-catch in the treacherous traps.
Some two thirds of the snares are set out in trees, the remainder on the ground. Here the collateral damage is the large by-catch of mice, dormice and frogs.
In former times horsehair snares were commonly used throughout Europe and birds were still caught using this method in Germany in the 19th Century. Today they are forbidden under the bird protection guidelines and all other EU states - with the singe exception of France - observe the ban. France ignores the law and permits these cruel and non-selective traps. All of the 250 bird trappers in the Ardennes are permitted to set out 2,000 traps each.
The annual trapping quota is restricted to 20,000 thrushes. In other words, after investing a great deal of time and effort each trapper is only permitted to catch 80 birds during the two month season in autumn - on average less than one bird per day. It is hard to believe that only one bird is caught daily in the trapper’s 2,000 snares. The restrictions associated with the trapping licence are therefore purely hypothetical. CABS estimate that in fact many more than 100,000 are caught in season in the horsehair snares. These include protected birds and other wildlife species.
In the 1990s CABS organised a large scale protest campaign against bird trapping in the Ardennes. Tens of thousands of postcards were sent to the decision makers in Brussels and Paris, a dossier was handed over to the European Commission and thousands of snares were destroyed with the help of committed MEPs -sadly without any sustainable success to date. The European Commission failed with their appeal to the European Court of Justice - French civil servants produced falsified expert testimony that proved that the snares were indeed selective!