It seems that for the second season running, a provincial government in the western region of Austria has issued 650 trapping licenses, once again defying a national ban on bird trapping.
Since 2005, the trapping of song birds has been illegal in Austria. However, the Conservative government who are very keen on the concept of Law and Order, appear unwilling to uphold the laws currently in place when it comes to animal protection issues.
During the 2005 season, 22 trappers were caught breaking the law by animal rights activists and were subsequently reported to the courts. The case against the trappers is still pending 10 months later, and now even more licenses have been renewed.
Trapping sites normally consist of about 10 wooden platforms on stilts, a further 10 wooden type boxes in which to hang up the live birds in cages as bait in order to draw in other birds and 100 or so metal trap holds to fix the traps onto. The season lasts from mid-September through the end of November. Many of the captured birds are sold into the lucrative pet trade.
Activists have staged protests outside all regional government offices in the trapping areas and also demonstrated outside the office of the provincial Minister, Erich Haider of the Social Democrat Party, who is responsible for the licensing, until he agreed to a meeting. A meeting took place on 11th September in which the Minister said that he intended to issue bird trapping licenses until such a time as a Court ruling declares bird trapping illegal.
Erich Haider conceded that a scientific report ordered by the government found that bird trapping caused suffering to the birds, which is contrary to the animal protection laws in Austria. But the regional courts still have not reached a verdict and the trappers could elongate the process by using the appeals process all the way to the High Courts.
It now appears that only such a court ruling might eventually resolve this issue. Until such a time, activists have declared that they will be keeping up the pressure and will continue to protest outside the courts and regional government offices. It appears another season of confrontation has begun, which will see 35.000 birds trapped and caged all in the name of tradition.