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Bird slaughter - a national pastime

Paranys or Barracas - trapping with lime sticks in Spain

Castelló: despite the legal ban, a poacher sets his lime sticks in the parany (© Gecen)Castelló: despite the legal ban, a poacher sets his lime sticks in the parany (© Gecen)In the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula, in the autonomous regions of Catalonia and Valencia, bird trapping is still an integral part of ‘traditional’ hunting. Every autumn countless thrushes are caught on treacherous lime sticks in more than 2,000 trapping sites - the so-called Barraccas in Catalonia or Paranys in Valencia. Spanish experts that the Spanish trappers catch more than 2 million song birds annually in these installations.

In the crowns of the massive and inviting trees, in specially sown plantations of mainly carob, the trappers prune the branches to create vertical chimneys in which the lime sticks can be positioned. A tangle of ladders and platforms provide access to the treetops for the trappers, who spend almost every night in the trapping season in small huts under the trees. In some areas near Valencia the whole landscape is dominated by the trapping sites with their characteristic form. Bird slaughter as a national pastime!

In the paranys the small glued sticks are set on artificial branches (© Gecen)In the paranys the small glued sticks are set on artificial branches (© Gecen)At night in autumn taped bird calls lure whole flocks of night migrants to their deadly fate. The birds, mainly thrushes, are held fast on the lime sticks. If they fall to the ground with the stick a wall or fence surrounding the installation prevents them escaping. The suffering birds are collected and killed only after sunrise.

This method of trapping has been banned in the EU since 1979. The Paranys and Barracas were however permitted in by regional laws for more than 20 years. Although the Spanish courts have long ago declared the practice illegal, and a judgement of the European Court of Justice ruled unambiguously in December 2004 that the installations must be closed down, they are still very much in use today. Politicians, the local administration and the police turn a blind eye to the continued contravention of national and international nature protection legislation.

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter CABS, together with its partner organisations GECEN , AE-Agró , GER-EA and Proact International , initiated a protest campaign in summer 2009 directed to the Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Volunteers from all these organisations have been mapping as well the activity of paranys in the area around Castelló. The results are available online here!

After tens of thousands nature and wildlife lovers has protested against the permitted operation of these trapping installations they remained closed in spring 2010. In order to have the best of both worlds the Valencia regional government has decided to play a cat and mouse game with trappers, conservationists, the courts and the European Commission. Trapping is still permitted but the authorities refuse to permit operation of the installations! In other words nothing has changed as the trappers simply set out their limesticks illegally in the 2010 season.