EU countries allowed killing of millions of birds between 2009 and 2017

Birds are very iconic animals and many people enjoy observing them. Be it scientists trying to understand altruism by observing long-tailed tits or children with their grandparents installing bird feeder in the garden. General public and the governments support protection of birds because they have become a great part of our culture. However, BirdLife International recently presented shocking results of an in-depth analysis – millions of birds were killed “legally” between 2009 and 2017.

Conventions protecting birds

Governments around the globe realized that birds are in danger already in 20th century. This global concern led to creation of three international conventions that protects birds to this day. It is the EU Birds Directive, the Bern Convention and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). All three of these agreements aim to protect birds, eggs and nests, regulates hunting and prohibits large-scale, unselective methods of bird culling. Bird populations significantly increased since acceptance of these conventions and at least 15 species regained their numbers in Europe. Many species, such as the Common Crane (Grus grus) and the White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) greatly expanded their range and are now common sights again.

Derogations from conventions

Each rule has an exception, and these birds protecting documents also have exceptions. They have system of derogations from the legal protection requirements. This means that in some cases, people are allowed to kill birds, for example, for scientific research, to ensure public health or if birds cause serious damage to people’s property. Normally, such drastic measures are only allowed if all other alternatives have been tried and failed.

Every EU Member State can issue derogations from EU Birds Directive. The procedure is quite complicated. Not only evaluators have to distinguish between “normal business losses” and “damage done by pest species”, it is also hard to determine the impact of culling on large scale ecosystems.

14 million birds killed using derogations

BirdLife International conducted an in-depth investigation analyzing derogations granted by EU Member States between 2009 and 2017. The study presents shocking results – within this period, EU Member States granted more than 84,000 derogations, thereby killing more than 14,000,000 birds. In particular, the numbers of derogations issued to kill Great Cormorant are so large that EU population impacts are likely. The number of derogations and impact to other bird species might be even higher due to persistent problems with reporting.

Members States are abusing their power to issue permissions to kill birds. By doing so, they violate EU laws and international conventions, diminishing biodiversity, abandon animal welfare and turn their backs on increasingly pressing biodiversity crisis.

We urge governments to take action

European Wilderness Society, together with BirdLife International, urges EU Commission to pay attention to this painful problem. EU Member States should adhere to complete and functional reporting on derogations. Specialists should carefully investigate each derogation, with a mandatory estimation of the number of individuals affected. All stakeholders, including NGOs, hunting organizations and European Commission should invest more in research of alternative human-bird conflict solutions.

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