Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

Consuming Songbirds for Supper, Illegally

October 15, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Is there nothing we won’t eat?

songbird in pot

In its Dining section this week, The NY Times reported that “one essential dish” has been missing from the menu of  renowned restaurants in Southwestern France — ortolans (songbirds). “Gourmands consume the head, bones and body in a single, steaming mouthful, while covering their faces with a white napkin to conceal the act.”

Eating songbirds (Photo: Richard Cottenier/MAXPPP)

Eating songbirds (Photo: Richard Cottenier/MAXPPP)

Hunting ortolans has been illegal since 1979, when the European Union declared them a protected species. In an effort to “revive the tradition” of eating them, French chefs are lobbying to legalize their consumption, but activists are pushing back, arguing that the chefs’ publicity stunt will further endanger the birds and subject them to egregious abuse.

And abusive it is. Poachers lure ortolans into ground traps during their migration from Europe to Africa. Once captured, the birds are held in a dark box for three weeks; force fed until fattened to three times their normal size; and drowned alive in liqueur.

Allain Bourgrain Dubourg, president of the Birds Protection League in France, argues that “Good cuisine cannot be used as an excuse for the conditions these animals are kept in.”  Chefs, of course, insist the birds are treated humanely.

Frustrated by the illegal poaching, activists put themselves in harm’s way to liberate the birds from traps —  as shown in the trailer to Emptying The Skies, a (brilliant) documentary on the “the secret war to save the songbirds.” In 2013, the film received the Zelda Penzel “Giving Voice to the Voiceless” Award at the Hamptons Film Festival in New York.

Your Turn

To learn more about and/or support the heroic efforts by activists liberating the birds and holding poachers accountable, please visit the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

Please sign the petition to stop ortolan hunting.


Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Mimi Benadiba says:

    Is their nothing that humans wont eat? what’s next human flesh! STOP THIS CRUELTY!!!

  2. Sue Butler says:

    This is appalling!!!!!
    It has to be STOPPED!!!!!!!!
    Sue Butler

  3. How barbaric this is!! It’s disgusting that people eat these tiny birds or why would they hide?!!?! Please leave these beautiful songbirds to live their lives naturally!!

  4. janet says:

    This is sick.

  5. Gloria Conbde says:


  6. Please end this senseless killing of these beautiful birds and suffering to satisfy your guilty pleasurs.

  7. Nancy says:

    Then they blame cats for songbird decline world wide. Bad enough they abuse other species now they have to add another to the menu?This is shameful.

  8. Veronica says:

    What a bizarre thing to do! They look crazy with the napkins on their heads. It’s very sad they are endangered and it still goes on. We are pathetic as a people and so entitled as we destroy the environment by doing things such as this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *