Considered by many to be unnecessarily cruel and harmful to the environment, the hunting technique of coating branches with glue to trap songbirds will soon come to an end to France, the only European country in which such practices were still allowed.
It wasn’t easy to convince the French government to take action against glue trapping. France only agreed to put a stop to the practice following pressure from conservationists, a formal ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), and a threat by the European Union’s executive body to start legal action against the country. The suspension, issued by President Emmanuel Macron, will enter into force from the upcoming hunting season.
Until recently, the French government had found a way around it by allowing the hunting technique only in five departments in south-east France on the grounds that it was “controlled, selective and in limited quantities”. Supporters of the hunting method argued that rapping birds on glue-covered twigs is a cultural tradition. But for the ECJ this wasn’t the case, ruling this week that the practice contravened EU rules.
“It’s wonderful news. Now France cannot use the pretext of an opt-out to allow glue-trapping to happen,” Yves Verilhac, of France’s Bird Protection League (LPO), told The Guardian, celebrating the news. “The judgment is very interesting because it says that tradition is no excuse for this and that it is absolutely not selective, which is what we knew and argued.”
The excitement wasn’t shared by the hunters. In a television interview on Thursday Willy Schraen, the head of the hunters’ federation, called the suspension “unacceptable” and said the hunters should be left alone by the government. “Why is this an issue to occupy Europe and our minister?” he added.
There are about 1.5 million registered hunters in France and they represent an important voting bloc in rural areas. President Macron has made efforts to attract their support since he was elected in 2017, which partly explains why France remained as the single country in the EU not to ban the technique – used by 5,000 hunters in the country, according to the hunter’s federation.
The glue-covered bird traps are used to catch songbirds like thrushes (Turdidae) and blackbirds (Turdus merula). Conservationists argue they traps are cruel to the trapped songbirds and threaten endangered species, as they trap many kinds of birds. The EU outlawed glue traps in 1979 but France remained until know as the single country to not accept the block’s rules.
French hunters kill an estimated 17 million birds a year from 64 species, more than any other European country, according to LPO. Of the bird species, 20 are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), including the turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), redwing (Turdus iliacus), and curlew (Numenius)
The industrial glue used in the traps can be toxic for birds, while the solvents used to detach the animals can harm trees and soil. It’s also needlessly cruel, as campaigns to ban the hunting technique have shown multiple times over the years, releasing footage of how birds suffer as they are trapped. Their next step will be asking the government to ban other practices, like trapping birds with nests.