European Court of Justice: Chasing animal-harmful lime bars is against EU law

Scientific knowledge is preferred over tradition when it comes to exceptions to bird hunting methods banned in the European Union, according to the European Court of Justice. Special attention should be paid to the fact that the uninhabited animal world also suffers from the method of hunting.


Limestick hunting for thrush and blackbirds in France for purely traditional reasons does not comply with European Union law. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided this and affirmed that bycatch in particular, that is, animals other than the ones that are being hunted, are not an exception due to the irreparable harm caused by this method of hunting (Judgment of March 17, 2021, Case C 900/19) .

When catching lime bars, for example, anglers smear a branch with a sticky substance. If the birds touch it, their feathers stick together and fall to the ground. Then it is collected there.

Two animal welfare societies have taken legal action before a French court against exceptions to the use of lime bars in some French administrations. In doing so, they confirmed the violation of bird orientation, which prohibits, among other things, limestone hunting. In her opinion, the public defender held that there was room for exceptions if the fishing method had significant cultural weight. However, the scientific view on the unintentional trapping of other birds, i.e. bycatch, must be taken into account.

Science takes precedence over tradition

In their ruling, the judges in Luxembourg indicate when, in their opinion, member states can deviate from this ban. To this end, they first made clear that the traditional character of the method of catching birds alone is not sufficient to justify an exception. This is the only way to prove that there is no other, more satisfying way.

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In order to fulfill the obligation to justify an exception to the ban on bird hunting, according to EUGH, evidence based on the best relevant scientific knowledge must be provided. In addition, the authority that decides the exception should compare the various possible exceptions and choose the solution that appears to be the most satisfactory.

“Irreparable harm to all birds” from Lime Hunting

Additionally, bird orientation stands in the way of national regulations that allow trapping methods that lead to bycatch with significant damage to birds. It is true that member states could derogate from hunting bans if certain types of birds can be hunt selectively. Hunting methods that in any case result in a non-lethal bycatch should nevertheless be used only to a limited extent and only if the birds can be released again without much damage.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice came to the conclusion that only hunted birds suffer irreparable damage, especially with regard to lime. Even if they are cleaned, lime bars can do irreparable damage to the feathers of all captured birds, so an exception can be made.

PDI / LTO Editorial Team

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