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A major success in Italy - no finch hunting in Lombardy in 2012

CABS protest campaign forces the region to take action

The decline of thrush and lark populations in many areas of Italy has resulted in an insufficient quantity of prey to meet hunters’ ‘needs’. This has caused many regional governments - particularly Lombardy and Veneto - to permit time and again the hunting of protected bird species. In doing this they not only contravene EU legislation, but also the Italian hunting law. For the past 15 years the Committee Against Bird slaughter has taken legal action against the special permits to shoot Chaffinches, Bramblings, Hawfinches and Meadow and Tree Pipits and has succeeded in stopping the legal hunting of these species in almost every case. For the first time this practice of issuing such permits has at last come to an end, at least for 2012.

The Hawfinch is a protected species throughout Europe - but hunting of these birds is nonetheless allowed in Northern Italy time and time again.The Hawfinch is a protected species throughout Europe - but hunting of these birds is nonetheless allowed in Northern Italy time and time again.In order to put a stop to the cat and mouse game between local authorities, politicians, the courts and conservationists, CABS has been instrumental in forging a broad-based alliance of Italian animal and nature protection organisations. A common strategy has been agreed between LIPU, LAC, Legambiente, ENPA, WWF, Animalisti Italiani and CABS Italy in order to use the combined efforts of these organisations to carry out lobbying in Rome and Brussels. In November 2011 the publication of a CABS video showing dramatic hunting scenes from Northern Italy finally woke up the bureaucrats in the European Commission. At the request of Brussels we provided the Commission with an expertise on the current state of finch hunting in North Italy, together with a list of recommendations. In May 2012 the EC Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik invited a delegation of the organisations involved to Brussels in order to be personally brought up to date on the problem.

Meeting in Brussels on 7 May 2012; left to right - A. Heyd (CABS), D. Selvaggi (LIPU), A. Zanoni (MEP), P. Fantilli (WWF Italia),  A. Procacci (ENPA) and N. Morabito (Legambiente)Meeting in Brussels on 7 May 2012; left to right - A. Heyd (CABS), D. Selvaggi (LIPU), A. Zanoni (MEP), P. Fantilli (WWF Italia), A. Procacci (ENPA) and N. Morabito (Legambiente) Immediately after our meeting Mr. Potočnik contacted the Italian Minister for the Environment Corrado Clini and demanded that the latter put a stop to the annual practice of granting special permits to hunt song birds that are otherwise protected throughout Europe. In his communication to the Italian Minister the EC Commissioner wrote ”I have recently received a delegation of nature and animal protection organisations who expressed their deep frustration over the continual contravention of the EU bird protection guidelines by regional governments by illegally issuing special permits allowing the hunting of protected bird species for many years ….. The European Court of Justice has already condemned Italy for permitting this practice and it is the duty of the Commission to guarantee that this judgement is enforced ….. I therefore request you to inform me whether such special permits to hunt protected species are planned by regional governments for 2012/2013 and, if so, what steps the central government is considering to prevent this. If such special permits are issued in future, I will have no other choice but to initiate new proceedings at the European Court of Justice, that with undoubtedly conclude in financial penalties for your country”.

The threat of a new lawsuit against Italy has now had the desired result. The Lombardy region has passed regulations that exclude the issuance of special permits for the hunting of finches and pipits during the 2012/2013 hunting season. The Veneto region has not yet taken this step; but it has already been reported in the media that no permits for hunting of protected bird species will be issued this autumn.

This is an important step and a huge success for conservationists. Nonetheless our optimism is being kept within bounds. In 2010 no special permits were issues as Italy had just been condemned by the European Court of Justice. In 2011 the initial shock had died down and the fear of financial sanctions forgotten. It was again illegally permitted to hunt millions of protected birds and hunting only ceased after the courts accepted our complaint and ruled in our favour. Our broad coalition pf conservation organisations must therefore remain on the alert and ensure that this problem is solved once and for all.

You can read more on this matter here.