Songbirds for the cooking pot
The consumption of songbirds as a "delicacy" is a deep-rooted tradition in most countries in and around the Mediterranean region; and is the driving force behind the trapping and shooting of hundreds of thousands of robins, thrushes, larks and other small birds throughout Europe each year.
Officially, the sale of songbirds taken from the wild is banned throughout the EU. However, as there is little or no control in most countries, huge criminal gangs have become well established in countries such as Cyprus and Italy, where several million plucked songbirds are sold each year to butchers, restaurants and private gourmet diners. In view of the enormous demand, the price of plucked songbirds on the black market has risen sharply everywhere in recent years, which in turn motivates many bird-trappers to catch even more. In Cyprus alone, the turnover from the illegal sale of blackcaps and thrushes is estimated at more than 10 million euros per year.
Huge cartels have grown from 'small fish' trapping birds in their olive garden to highly organised criminal gangs trapping on an industrial scale. In order to cover the demand, in addition to the birds shot in their own country, the demand is supplemented with birds smuggled in from Eastern Europe and elsewhere. In Italy, for example, the police regularly confiscate smuggled loads of thousands of dead larks, thrushes or wagtails that have come into the country from Bulgaria and Serbia. In northern Italy, CABS investigations have revealed that game traders importing hundreds of thousands of frozen sparrows from Tunisia each year. This practice was brought to an end for the time being following a criminal complaint to the European Commission.