The slaughter of songbirdsEthical News News & Features
Romania is awaiting the verdict on a new hunting law, proposed at the end of February, which would allow the massacre of songbirds.
The law would prolong the hunting periods for 18 species of bird by up to three months as well as allowing hunting on private fields without the owner’s consent. All restrictions for foreign bird hunters would also be lifted.
The law has passed through Romania’s parliament once already, at which point it was rejected by the president. It has now has gone through parliament again and passed the senate; the next step is the deputy chambers, which is practically the last hope. According to the Romanian law, if it passes this level it can’t be stopped and the president must accept it.
In response to the proposals, the Romanian Ornithological Society (BirdLife International partner in Romania) and the Federation Coaliția Natura 2000 Romania have launched the Oprește barbaria, Salvează ciocârlia! (Stop the slaughter, Save our songbirds!) campaign.
Save our songbirds!
Romanians are being asked to sign a public petition to stop the law and send a strong message to parliament members that Romanians will not stand to see the singing birds decimated.
Songbirds travel from one country to another; if they’re killed in Romania they won’t be able to travel to any other countries, either.
A national debate
So far more than 5,000 people have signed the public petition and the official Facebook account has reached more than 33,000 people. TV and radio stations across Romania have sparked a national debate encouraging Nature lovers to stop the bill that could kill the singing birds.
‘There are four main problems with the hunting law in its new proposed form. The first is that it infringes on the right to ownership by allowing hunting without landowners’ consent. The second is that, by prolonging the hunting periods for 18 species of bird by up to three months, species will be endangered because they’ll be hunted during prenuptial migration.
‘The third problem is that the hunting quotas will be established through an Order of the Ministry without consulting the custodians of the natural protected areas and other organisations interested in protecting the fauna.
‘The last big problem is that the law will allow foreign citizens to hunt singing birds all over Romania and we know that this could mean a bloodshed. With this campaign we want to send a clear message to the politicians that this form of the law is dangerous for Romania’s Nature and it must be rejected.
‘The hunting law has a series of problems and adopting it will mean chaos, problems and confusion all over Romania.’
Luminiţa Tănasie, Natura 2000 Coalition
Skylark hunting in the EU
The skylark, one of Romania’s most cherished birds and an inspiration for great musicians all over the world (such as George Enescu, ‘The Romanian Rhapsody’), is just one of the species that is threatened by this law – other victims include starlings, warblers, tits, thrushes, nightingales and even red-breasted geese. If the hunting periods for other geese are extended, red-breasted geese flying with them in mixed flocks will also be lost.
In the EU, only five other countries allow skylark hunting – Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France and Malta. BBC Nature announced that the skylark population in Europe declined by up to 50% as a result of intensive farming over the last 25 years. Now the risk is higher as their tongues are considered a delicacy in some areas.
A poacher’s paradise
The new hunting law would open Romania to foreign hunters. Until now, hunters required an invitation provided by the hunting domain owner or administrator; hunting without invitation or consent would lead to the songbird’s massacre.
‘Romania is the last country in the European Union that allows hunters to take down skylarks. The new law will start a massacre and we have unfortunate past experiences.
‘In 2009, in Balta Mare a Brăilei, an Italian hunter was caught with 2000 crested larks, a species that is not on the hunting list.
‘In 2010, in Brăila county, Police caught 15 Italian hunters with thousands of skylarks, crested larks and quails.
‘In 2011, the Hungarian Border Police intercepted a shipment of over 11,000 skylarks hunted in Romania and ready to go to Italy.
In 2013, another Italian hunter was apprehended in Ialomita County with over than 5,400 skylarks. If this situation continues, we will only hear the singing birds in the museum.’
Ovidiu Bufnilă, Romanian Ornithological Society/BirdLife Romania
The songbird icon
Mozart had a starling for three years and introduced its singing in the Piano Concert number 17. Beethoven also used songs from the nightingale in his works.
The skylark was a symbol of freedom and peace for the English soldiers in the First World War, and the starling is the only bird in history that has managed to stop Big Ben (in 1946).
Click here to find out more about the Save our songbirds! campaign.