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What is the ‘barbaric’ French tradition of glue trap hunting for songbirds?

An animal welfare charity has launched a fresh legal bid to persuade the French government to ban the "barbaric" practice of catching songbirds in traps made from glue.

What is the 'barbaric' French tradition of glue trap hunting for songbirds?
The EU has already issued a warning to France over the practice. Photo: AFP

The new season of glue trap hunting is under way in southeastern France, angering opponents who say the capture of thousands of thrushes and blackbirds in this way every season is “cruel” and have tried in vain to have it banned by French authorities.

The practice is also in the firing line of the European Union, which prohibited it in Spain in 2004 and issued a warning to France in July.

Images of birds struggling to free themselves from the glue have provoked a public debate.

The backlash worries Daniel Portalis, 67, of Marseille, who began hunting as a teenager with his grandfather, but he remains undeterred.

“It is no more cruel than anything else in my opinion,” he told AFP. “But maybe I see it through the eyes of love.”

Among the tufts of thyme and rosemary, he lays out wooden cages containing “calling” birds, or those caught in previous hunting sprees.

Their singing entices other birds to the area, where the glue traps lie waiting.

According to the glue trap hunters' association, Portalis is among about 6,000 people still practising this form of hunting in France.

Hidden, apart from a shock of his white hair, he keeps watch from a green hut concealed by a shrub.

After four hours, a bell tied to one of the “glue branches” rings, indicating that a thrush, distinct with its black beak and spotted chest, is stuck to the lime by its wing.

A small wren, also trapped, is released by the hunter. But he quickly takes the thrush in one hand and, with the other, sprays a solvent to dissolve the glue.

Released from the lime but held tightly by Portalis, the thrush is carefully placed in a cage.

The song bird joins about 30 “callers”, used to attract the birds that will be the targets of his shotgun hunting trips later.

Environmentalists say that 150,000 birds die annually from traditional hunting techniques, such as glue traps and nets, at a time when Europe's bird population is free-falling.

A report last year by the French National Centre for Scientific Research found that the number of birds in France's rural areas had dropped by a third in 17 years.

“In the 21st century, how can we allow these barbaric, cruel and non-selective practices to continue!” said Yves Verilhac, head of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO).

“Those guys should go and play 'boules'!” he added, referring to the age-old game still played in village squares across France often by retired men.

The LPO says that the glue traps are “non-selective”, flouting a 2009 EU directive.

Any kind of bird can get stuck on the traps, losing precious feathers, their freedom or their life, it argues.

“France which sees itself as a biodiversity leader is the last country to officially use” glue traps in hunting, said Verilhac.

Glue trap hunting is accused of fuelling illegal trade in thrushes.

Easy to buy, the glue is also used by goldfinch traffickers, a widely poached endangered species, says the National Hunting and Wildlife Agency.

Late last year, the French court with the final say on matters of administrative law rejected an LPO bid to ban lime-coated sticks, citing legal limits already in place.

Another attempt to stop the current glue trap hunting season is due to go before the Paris-based court on Wednesday.

Traps can only be laid between sunrise and 11:00 am and birds must immediately be removed from them.

For the current season, the French state has set a limit of 42,500 on the number of thrushes and blackbirds that can be caught by glue trap hunting in the southern Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, the only one in France where it takes place.

The figure was 78,000 the previous year.

“We're only allowed seven captures per hunter per season,” says Portalis.

The National Hunting and Wildlife Agency has stepped up inspections to number 500 last season.

“The impact of glue traps in terms of conservation is minimal,” regional director Eric Hansen told AFP.

Compared to the 42,500 authorised glue trap hunted birds, he said that 4.5 million thrushes were killed, most of them shot, annually in France during the hunting season.

“People give their opinion without knowing what they're talking about. They listen to the associations' lies!” fumes Eric Camoin, president of the Association for the Protection of Traditional Thrush Hunting, which has 5,000 members.

“The problem is more ideological than anything else. Activists ultimately want to ban hunting all together,” he said.

The LPO is pinning its hopes on the EU, which already put an end to the hunting of ortolans, considered a delicacy in France.

Member comments

  1. How about a week at the start of each hunting season whereby anyone who wants to have a hunting licence, is hunted with the same firepower as they want to use, with extreme prejudice. Those that survive may have a different outlook, or perhaps there will be few applicants.
    Call me extreme, you bet. Anything to stop these ‘humans’ who think this is sport.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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