Derogations for bird hunting in Italy
With the EU Birds Directive coming into force in 1979, most songbird species were protected under nature conservation law. Only five species of thrush, starlings and skylarks were allowed to be hunted - a great step forward compared to the previously completely unregulated songbird hunting. However, Italy has taken its time in transposing the Directive - it was not until 1992 that the rules were applied. But the hunters did not want '"beloved" prey such as wagtails, finches and sparrows to be taken from their grasp. Every year, derogations to the Birds Directive have been used to obtain permits to shoot the protected birds. Together with our Italian partner associations, CABS have fought against this practice for over 30 years - and won in the long run. In 2013, the law made the continuation of such derogations impossible.
Derogations 1992 to 2010
The EU Birds Directive gives Member States the possibility to allow the shooting or trapping of protected bird if it is for the preservation of a "tradition", only "small quantities" are affected, if there is "no other satisfactory solution" and if sufficient control of the requirements is ensured. Some Italian regions - notably Lombardy, Tuscany and Veneto - started to make use of this loophole in 1992. Every autumn, under pressure from the Italian hunting lobby, they approved the hunting of brambling, chaffinches, hawfinches and tree and meadow pipits.
Derogations for bird trapping
The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, which have a deep-rooted culture in terms of hunting, have also allowed bird-trapping with nets every year. Because the hunters need live decoys to hunt songbirds. There were also exemptions for the large trapping grounds, in which hundreds of thousands of thrushes and finches could be caught. The birds spent the rest of their lives in small cages in front of the camouflage capanni hunting hides in order to lure others of their kind in front of the bird hunters and their shotguns.
We have also taken legal action against these regulations, and here too the judges had to overturn the laws, the nets were brought down. Until the next time.
2010: European Court of Justice condemns Italy
In 2010, the European Court of Justice sentenced Italy for continuing this illegal licensing practice. The main reasons for the judges in Luxembourg were the lack of controls and the apparently large quantities of birds being killed and taken from the wild. In fact, for the first time, Lombardy did not grant a derogation this year, only to approve the hunting of five protected bird species again in 2011, albeit with a bag limit of "only" 33,000 birds. We also took legal action against this law and won.
The renewed shooting derogation issued by Lombardy in 2011 prompted the EU Commission to threaten Italy with severe penalties. Under this pressure, there were no further hunting permits in autumn 2012. But the plans to allow finch hunting in 2013 were already on the table.
No all-clear despite all the successes
Pro-hunting right-wing populists of the separatist "Lega Nord" party, were behind almost all regional shooting and trapping derogations during the last few decades. The splinter party, once limited to only a few regions in northern Italy, is now called "Lega" and is now one of the most influential political forces in the country. Its anti-EU policy manifests itself above all in efforts to further undermine the EU Birds Directive. It wasn't until 2019 that the Lega again allowed bird-trapping with nets and once again the hunting lobby is calling for the hunting of brambling and chaffinches to be approved in national law.