Illegal hunting threatens the singing bird as a delicacy: study

0
21

About 300,000 birds pass through south-western France, where they fall prey to hunters who for decades have challenged the ban on collecting them in the name of gastronomic tradition.

The courtesy of the undated photo Simonas Minkevicius for Science Advances, obtained May 22, 2019, shows a male horticultural bunting in Lithuania.

Courtesy of the undated photo Simonas Minkevicius for Science Advances, obtained May 22, 2019, shows a male horticultural bunting in Lithuania.
(AFP)

Each year, nearly five million breeding pairs of gardeners, a type of small songbird classified as threatened in different countries, migrate from Europe to Africa for the winter.

About 300,000 birds pass through south-western France, where they fall prey to hunters who for decades have challenged the ban on collecting them in the name of gastronomic tradition.

You see, the gardener is seen by elite chefs and gourmets as a rare culinary pleasure – one that is consumed whole, bones and everything, with a napkin over your head, for privacy and to inhale its aroma better .

The late French president Francois Mitterrand was a well-known fan. And even though his country listed the protected species in 1999 after his death, the hunt went on.

Now, European experts say in a study published Wednesday in the US journal Science Advances that illegal hunting is precipitating the end of the horticultural bunting (Emberiza hortulana), which already suffers due to the loss of its natural habitat and other factors.

"If the hunt continues, it will lead to the disappearance of the garden," Frederic Jiguet, a professor at the National Natural History Museum of France and lead author of the study, told AFP.

– Extinction? –

Jiguet had already conducted a study commissioned by the French Ministry of the Environment to try to resolve the battle between the French state and the scientific hunters on the garden.

This study, published in 2016 and funded in part by the hunting federation in the southwestern region of the Landes, estimated that the number of migrating songbirds throughout France had decreased by 20-30 percent from 2000 to 2014.

In the new study, the researchers went further by calculating the bird's risk of extinction in different scenarios.

The most optimistic case would involve a risk of extinction of 66% within a century, if hunting in France were to be reduced by 15,000 birds per season, out of an estimate of 30,000 captured each year.

"Eliminating 30,000 birds each fall from the population that crosses France is a significant contribution to species decline," said Jiguet.

Like all birds in rural areas, even vegetable gardeners fall victim to modern agricultural practices, a decrease in insect populations and the use of pesticides, but hunting is seen as a combination of these factors.

"The end of the hunt would have netted an average of twice the chance of survival," said Jiguet. "He wouldn't necessarily save it, so we should change the way we cultivate."

– European pressures and activists –

The ortolan weighs only 20 grams (0.04 pounds). Its consumption is seen by many as something of a transformative culinary experience.

Michelin-starred celebrity chef Alain Ducasse has angered animal rights activists by serving birds at an invitation-only meal at the prestigious Le Cirque in New York in 1995.

"It's kind of a hot influx of fats, guts, bones, blood and flesh, and it's really delicious," said the late chef Anthony Bourdain to Stephen Colbert during a 2011 interview.

The bird was also consumed in an episode of the drama Showtime "Billions" last year.

In 1979, the Birds Directive of the European Union listed the bird as a protected species, but the French state had long since turned a blind eye to hedge hunting, proceeding only with its own list 20 years later .

But in the Landes region, local authorities nevertheless allowed a limited number of traps despite pressure from Brussels, which eventually filed a legal complaint about the practice before an EU court in 2016.

The League for the Protection of Birds of France has constantly fought for the hunt to end.

Its members have regularly tried to destroy the traps, causing an angry scene in 2015 that has become viral, with a hunter dressed in underwear wielding a shovel to drive them away.

Last week, the highest court in France confirmed a sentence that fined hunters who had violated the laws on vegetable hunting.

Frederic Dutin, a lawyer for an association of traditional hunters in the Landes, told AFP on Wednesday that the group wanted "the re-establishment of a strictly regulated tolerance" to allow observation of the evolution of vegetable populations . "

But for Jiguet, recent studies have "helped the government make decisions and hunters to accept them."

Source: AFP

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.