France is to outlaw trapping birds using sticks covered in glue after the European commission threatened legal action and fines.
The move was welcomed by campaigners who have described the practice as “barbaric” and who urged the French government not to bow to pressure from the powerful hunting lobby.
Hunters argue the method of trapping the birds, known as chasse a la glu, is a centuries-old rural tradition and say they are being persecuted.
Using glue sticks to catch birds has been outlawed in Europe since the 1979 Bird Directive, except in specific circumstances where the practice is “controlled, selective and in limited quantities”. Since 1989, France has invoked these circumstances to permit glue-trapping in five south-east departments on the grounds that it is “traditional”.
The French Bird Protection League (LPO) produced evidence from hidden cameras to prove that the practice is not selective and poses a threat to endangered species, which persuaded the European commission to act.
France, one of the last European countries to authorise hunting birds with glue, has been given until October to definitively outlaw the practice.
At a meeting with hunters last week Barbara Pompili, the newly appointed minister for ecological transition, told them the chasse a la glu must end by October.
“This is a final warning from the European commission. France cannot be the last country that allows the trapping and barbaric torture of birds. This hunting is non selective and cruel,” said Yves Verilhac, the director of the LPO.
“The hunting lobby is blaming the new minister because she’s a woman and an ecologist, but all she is doing is not signing any opt-outs to the directive this year under threat from the European commission.”
The LPO estimates 40,000 birds are caught using glue sticks by 5,000 hunters every year. The hunters are allowed to catch four types of thrush and one of blackbird, but secretly filmed video shown to the Guardian last yearshowed robins, blue tits, warblers and finches struggling and dying on glue-sticks or being pulled off and discarded like litter. Last year, LPO activists found a dead kestrel, its wings gummed with glue.
Willy Schraen, the president of the Hunting Federation, said he was in “complete disagreement” with the government’s decision to follow the directive and warned hunters would take legal action.
“I hope the minister will not listen to the sirens in Brussels and will remain true to what France, with its traditions and strong values, represents. This is a very ancient way of capturing birds,” Schraen told FranceInfo.
He added: “I don’t think it’s barbaric. I don’t think those who practise this chasse a la glu are thugs. They are people with strong values who are happy to catch a few birds. Why is this a problem? The real question is … why is the head of environment in Europe wasting time persecuting a few Gaulois?”
“We will legally defend glue-trapping because it is a symbol [of our culture].”
Verilhac has urged the government not to give in. “If they do, the French people will find themselves paying millions in fines for the sake of 5,000 hunters,” he said.
“The hunters paint this idyllic picture of country folk living off the land with their traditions, but these hunters aren’t rural people. Most of them turn up in expensive 4×4 vehicles from the city.”
Verilhac added: “Besides, not all traditions should be defended. Hunting with glue sticks is an abomination.”