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Note: The contents in words and pictures of this article are based on the facts when it was first published (23.03.2007).

Vienna, am 23.03.2007

Austrian Courts overturn bird trapping ban

On the 22nd March the constitutional courts in Austria ruled the federal ban on the regional tradition of bird trapping was "unconstitutional".

The bird trapping season in the province of upper Austria begins in mid-September. The tradition dates back to medieval days, when an Austrian Archduke issued licences to the citizens of the Salzkammergut area which allowed them to trap song birds for food. About 150 years ago, this tradition was transformed into trapping song birds for fun, displaying them and keeping them over the winter for entertainment.

A new federal animal welfare law that came into effect in 2005 banned the practice of bird trapping nationwide. Since then a battle has been raging between Austrian animal rights campaigners and bird trappers, with activists destroying trap lines and documenting bird trappers and reporting more than 30 of them to the courts. However, activists have been frustrated as police response has been poor and the law has never been enforced. Additionally, local provincial governments did not execute the law or prosecute anyone for breaking the anti trapping laws.

Now the constitutional courts have overturned the ban. The Constitutional Court judges argued that the provincial government has explicitly allowed the bird trapping tradition. The federal government, in banning bird trapping, has therefore not respected the wishes of the provincial government. The Austrian constitution states that "the Provincial and the Federal government must respect each other, at least in cases of public interest." The court ruled that tradition is always in the public interest.

A spokesperson for the Austrian animal rights campaigners commented on hearing the decision, "This throws the campaign back! The ban is undone, the trappers will go out in September again, and now with the backing of the highest court in the country. Furthermore, Parliament cannot ban the practice even if it wants to!" However animal rights campaigners remain defiant and have pledged to carry on the fight saying, "what else is left than direct action against this obviously unjust and undemocratic decision?"