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France ARAs Free Songbirds in Protest

To legions of illicit gourmets, it is the ultimate guilty pleasure: a delicacy so tempting and yet so barbarous it is traditionally consumed with one's head cloaked in a napkin. But to France's animal rights activists, the traditional practice of eating ortolan, an endangered songbird, is cruel and anachronistic.

Now, enraged by the failure – or refusal – of successive governments to crack down on poachers, campaigners are taking matters into their own hands.

In a co-ordinated protest, members of the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) destroyed hundreds of traps and set free the birds inside. The time had come, they said, to prioritise biodiversity over gastronomy.

"For 10 years now, not only has the state turned a blind eye [to the poachers] but it has been complicit," said Allain Bougrain-Dubourg, president of the LPO. "It is time to make the state face up to its responsibilities."

The hunting and selling of ortolans, which have suffered a Europe-wide decline of 40-50% in the last 40 years, has been illegal in France since 1999.

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