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Italian judges rescue millions of birds

Regional governments forced to backtrack

CABS appeals every year against regulations permitting hunting of protected Bramblings – and almost always wins!CABS appeals every year against regulations permitting hunting of protected Bramblings – and almost always wins! In the 1980s, the Italian government committed itself to considerably better protection for migrating birds in the context of several international agreements (EU Bird Protection Guidelines, Berne Convention etc.). In 1992 the parliament in Rome passed a relatively forward-looking new hunting law, which banned bird trapping and, with the exception of Skylarks, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings, provided complete protection for all song birds.

Some regions with a long tradition of sing bird hunting attempt to circumvent the new legislation by issuing their own special seasonal regulations. With the financial support of CABS, Italian nature conservation organisations challenge these regulations in the courts.

In principle it is a success story; but the local regional governments bend the law to breaking point and have played cat-and mouse with judges and conservationists for years.

The regional governments of Lombardy, Liguria, Marche, Veneto and other regions attempt every year to permit wide scale hunting of up to 10 million Starlings, House and Italian Sparrows, Chaffinches and Bramblings, Meadow and Tree Pipits, Hawfinches and Cormorants – fortunately without any enduring success to date.

Live Hawfinch hunting decoy - the hunting permits have no legal standing in courtLive Hawfinch hunting decoy - the hunting permits have no legal standing in court A firm of lawyers appointed by CABS regularly seek an immediate injunction in the courts against these local seasonal regulations a few days after they come into force. In 2009, as in previous years, we were able to persuade the court, in six out of nine cases, to revoke the permission for the shooting of Chaffinches, Bramblings, Starlings and Sparrows. As a rule the hunters are able to use the seasonal regulations for a period of a few days (and sometimes weeks) before the courts put an end to the shooting. Some permissions, such as in September 2005 in Lombardy, which permitted a bag of 172,000 Tree Pipits, we were able to prevent before a single shot fell.

The annual repeated attempts to have permission granted for the erection of mass net installations - roccoli - to trap decoy birds for use in hunting from camouflaged hides has also, thanks to our court appeals, failed on every occasion to date.

What may sound to some like a political comedy/thriller is nothing more than cold-blooded manipulation of the law. The seasonal regulations are the same - word for word - every year. Only a few figures, the sentence order and the file number are changed. The permissions remain the same and it must be crystal clear to the responsible politicians that their seasonal regulations contravene both Italian and ÈU laws and will not stand up in court.

Nonetheless the regulations are trotted out each year in autumn with a tedious regularity in order to provide the hunters with a small window of opportunity to sate their bloodlust against the song birds - something the normal laws do not permit. The politicians twist and weave every year with such imagination that our lawyers have their work cut out to keep up with them.

In the meantime CABS and its partners appeal not only to the regional courts, but have already had signal successes in the upper administrative court in Rome. Our environmental complaint to the EC was upheld by the European Court of Justice. Italy was found guilty of granting illegal permissions for hunting of protected birds in July 2010.

Thanks to our campaigns and court cases, in June 2013 the parliament in Rome severely restricted the ability of the regions to permit hunting of pipits and finches. You can read more about this here here.

Since 1994 CABS has invested up to 10,000 € annually in legal support in order to prevent regional governments in Italy contravening European Union nature protection legislation. This has saved millions of birds from certain death. The court cases have been financed with donations from private persons mainly in Germany. If you want to help us as well we would be grateful for your donation towards our international bird and wildlife conservation work.