Komitee gegen den Vogelmord e.V. Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

Komitee gegen den Vogelmord e. V.
Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

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Roccoli - The State controlled bird trapping

Mainly thrushes such as this song thrush are caught in 'Roccoli'
Mainly thrushes such as this song thrush are caught in 'Roccoli'

For the Italian camouflage hunting hut the use of living decoys is considered essential. For more than a hundred years, birds have been caught with nets in huge trapping installations - called "roccoli" (singular "roccolo"). After bird-trapping was banned in Italy in 1992, the hunters and trappers found themselves with a supply problem for live decoys. Instead of starting a captive breeding programme, the government obtained an exemption to continue operating the roccoli sites. And since private individuals were no longer allowed to trap birds, the state made itself the official operator of the trapping facilities! 

"Roccoli" are about the size of a football field and stand on mountain passes and bottlenecks that are important for bird migration. The heart of a roccolo is a mighty beech hedge that surrounds the entire complex. The trees have been cut into round arches over decades, and their interior houses a pergola. Vast nets are stretched here, running up to 2,000 metres depending on the size of the plant! The roccolo offers a large selection of berry-bearing shrubs, waterholes, feeding places and is peppered with live lures. It is common to find more than 50 birds locked in tiny cages to provide a spring-like chorus to attract others of their kind as they migrate through.

CABS takes the use of the roccoli to the courts

In nets, all birds get caught, not only the hunt able species. Here a goldcrest.
In nets, all birds get caught, not only the hunt able species. Here a goldcrest.

In order to put an end to the ongoing violation of the EU Birds Directive, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) filed its first complaint before the Milan Administrative Court in 1994. It confirmed that the exemption for the operation of the roccoli was incompatible with EU law and national laws. The law opening the installations in 1994 was declared unlawful and all installations had to be closed.

In the following years, the governments of Lombardy and Veneto reopened the roccoli every autumn, each time with a new law with the same wording as in 1994. Each time, CABS, together with our partner association LAC, filed official complaints which were always justified. The laws were always passed just before the start of the trapping season, and the legal proceedings usually lasted four weeks, during which the bird trappers could cheerfully trap birds to their hearts content. All in all, we have filed complaints and won more than a dozen times against the opening of the facilities. 

This spook was only caused by an intervention of the EU Commission. All roccoli have been closed since 2014. But the governments in Veneto and Lombardy are always trying to allow such trapping through the back door. So far, however, without success! 

The last time they failed was in October 2019 with the plan to allow the capture of 12,700 blackbirds, song thrushes, redwing and fieldfare with nets.