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.
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.