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Bird hunting in France

A crusade against migrant birds

Hunting of migrant birds, as also trapping, is still a national sport in France and, since the days of the French Revolution, is considered to be a citizen’s right. In no other EU state is hunting such a natural part of daily life - with fatal consequences for nature and the environment.

The hunting of waders - here a Ruff, in decline in Europe - is still widespread (© Marek Szczepanek/wikimedia commons)The hunting of waders - here a Ruff, in decline in Europe - is still widespread (© Marek Szczepanek/wikimedia commons)Every year some 1.3 million French hunters, almost twice as many as in Italy, take to the fields and woods to hunt. It is hardly surprising that more birds are shot in France than in any other European state. According to government sources more than 25 million song birds and migrants (in Italy the figure is 17 million) are the victims every year of an extremely long hunting season, long lists of huntable species, and an often not very law-abiding hunting community. The main prey of the hunters is, in addition to Pheasant, ducks and partridges, above all song birds. Each year more than 5.5 million thrushes are shot, including more than 2 million Song Thrushes and a million Blackbirds, and far more than 600,000 Skylarks. These figures do not include the millions of thrushes and larks that are additionally legally killed in traps that are elsewhere banned by EU legislation.

Waders are also hunted on a dramatic scale. Other than elsewhere in Europe, where most wader species are protected because of their unfavourable population status, they are among the favourite targets of French hunters. Lured by plastic decoys, the birds on passage are blasted out of the sky from shooting hides along the Atlantic coast - more than half a million waders land in the cooking pot in this way. These hunting excesses threaten the extinction of the lapwing sooner or later. Although its populations are declining throughout Europe, this fact is ignored in France where more than 400,000 Lapwings are shot every autumn. Hunting of Golden and Grey Plover, Knot, Ruff, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Greenshank, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank are permitted, as well as the highly endangered Curlew. Only 6,000 pairs of the latter still breed in Germany - French hunters shoot 40,000 individuals every year!

Hunting hut with live decoys in ProvenceHunting hut with live decoys in ProvenceIn some regions hunting is a fanatically practised national sport. In the southwest of France the hunters eagerly anticipate the annual arrival of Wood Pigeons from North and Central Europe. As soon as the birds arrive, the majority of the region’s male population take time off from work and fire into the swarm of exhausted birds for days at a time. The fièvre grise – grey fever – as the passion for shooting Wood Pigeons is called, makes the headlines annually in the daily papers.