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Illegal fast food

Campaign against the trade in deep frozen sparrows in Italy

Frozen en bloc -  Spanish Sparrows from TunisiaFrozen en bloc - Spanish Sparrows from TunisiaIn autumn 2008 the attention of a CABS team was drawn to a butcher’s shop near Lake Iseo that displayed a poster in the window offering song birds for sale. An Italian team member played the part of an interested customer, bought 15 deep frozen birds as evidence, and informed the police. The nest day the police searched the shop premises. The butcher stated that he had imported the birds from Tunisia and that this was legal and above board. After hours of discussion the police gave up. According to them the legal situation is so ambiguous that they were unable to intervene.

CABS staff were not at all happy with this state of affairs and carried out comprehensive research into the matter. Veterinary surgeons established that the birds had not been shot - they had therefore been caught in nets or traps. This is also forbidden in Tunisia. A legal expertise confirmed that the birds may not be offered for sale, even if they are imported, and bird imports into the EU from Tunisia (and elsewhere) are banned following the bird influenza scare. Finally the Institute for Avian Research in, Wilhelmshaven, Germany, confirmed that the birds are Spanish Sparrows Passer hispaniolensis, a European protected species.

Cheeky butcher - the large poster in his shop window offers Uccellini (little birds) for saleCheeky butcher - the large poster in his shop window offers Uccellini (little birds) for saleCABS passed this information to the police and, a year after the discovery of the frozen sparrows, the first butchers‘ shops in Brescia and Bergamo were raided and the first deep frozen sparrows confiscated .

We now know that the trade in deep frozen sparrows is far more widespread than we first believed. As the sale of birds shot and trapped in Italy is banned, the butchers had met the demand with imports from North Africa. The used a loophole in national law that, despite the ban on bird imports following the bird flu epidemic, import of poultry from Tunisia was not specifically forbidden. it is probable that hundreds of thousands of protected Spanish Sparrows are sold in this way.

CABS will concern itself with the problem over the next few years and attempt to put a stop once and for all to this trade in protected birds. At least a start has been made.