French hunters claim tradition justifies their exemption from EU rules. But with many species endangered, there is growing pressure for a ban
It is early morning in the heart of Provence, and somewhere behind the tall black pine trees a rousing dawn chorus begins. We are crouching out of sight among the rosemary bushes and wild asparagus listening to the melodic musical phrases of song thrushes and blackbirds.
This is Marcel Pagnol country, rich in flora and fauna and of exceptional natural beauty; but there is no sign of the singing birds anywhere in the rustling foliage, trees or sky.
Yves Verilhac, of Frances Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), knows why. The singing you can hear is from caged thrushes and blackbirds who are appellants(callers). Theyre caught and kept in the dark for months so when theyre taken out into daylight they sing their hearts out and attract other birds.
He points above the treetops where clusters of sticks attached to vertical poles glisten in the nascent sunlight. Those are verguettes: sticks covered in glue. The callers call, other birds come, land on a verguette, and theyre stuck. The more they struggle to get away, the more they become stuck.
The trilling Provenal songbirds are unwitting decoys to lure more birds into a death trap, he says. Once enticed, the birds are either blasted out of the sky by hunters hidden in camouflaged cabins, or find themselves stuck on the sticks.
It is a scene with which readers of Roald Dahls The Twits in which the Twits coat branches with glue to catch birds to bake in a pie will be familiar.
La chasse la glu glue-trapping was banned in the EU by a 1979 directive, except in special circumstances where it 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.