Those French – unbelievable what they do


In the Languedoc area of France, the bourgoisie kill House Sparrows by throwing daggers at them.  It’s a traditional pastime that came into existence when technology allowed the perfect manufacture of sets of spadger daggers.

Many areas of the Languedoc are managed to produce high numbers of sparrows for la chasse.  Trees are felled (sparrows don’t nest in them), lines of privet hedges are planted, little shacks with ill-fitting roofs are constructed to create a landscape fit for sparrows.  Some even say that it is a cherished landscape of great cultural significance.

The sparrows are fed with piles of birdseed, and a few other seed-eaters, linnets and greenfinches mostly, benefit from this highly artificial management regime. The densities of these seed-eaters can reach one hundred times their ‘natural’ levels and this causes disease problems, so the kind Languedocians add medicine to the bird food to try to keep on top of these diseases – after all, they wouldn’t want the sparrers dying of disease before they can be skilfully impaled on a thrown dagger, would they?

Of course, predators of House Sparrows cannot be tolerated. Any sparrow taken by a hawk or mammal is one fewer for the dagger throwers to kill a few weeks later. Although Sparrowhawks are completely protected in French law, they are hunted down ruthlessly by the agents of the sparrow hunters.  You will not find a Sparrowhawk in the Languedoc  or in a few other areas of France where this ‘traditional’ hunting occurs. It is a bit blatant, or ca creve les yeux, as we say.

Despite this the sparrow hunters will tell you that they are the Sparrowhawk’s greatest friends and the hawks are practically dependent on this management. When it is pointed out that in other parts of the world, House Sparrows and Sparrowhawks survive together without any human intervention, then the sparrow hunters change the subject with a Gallic shrug.

It takes a lot of skill to aim your dagger at a sparrow and bring it down – some just live for the thrill of it.  When asked whether this form of mass killing wasn’t un peu trop the ‘chef d’equipe‘ of the chasseurs said ‘’s not an enjoyment based on killing, it’s an enjoyment to respect the countryside. Shooting is about not just the history of France, it’s about an innovative future.’. Sorry, I know that doesn’t make any sense at all, it must have lost something in translation.

If you would like to teach the French a lesson in wildlife management then sign this e-petition, s’il vous plait. Merci a vous, de la part des busards Saint-Martin.

House Sparrows mating I IMG 0066CC BY-SA 3.0,  J.M.Garg - Own work via wikimedia commons
House Sparrows mating I IMG 0066CC BY-SA 3.0,
J.M.Garg – Own work via wikimedia commons


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17 Replies to “Those French – unbelievable what they do”

  1. Thanks for doing this Mark. I've tried to explain hen harrier and grouse moors using a clumsy analogy with make-believe allotment holders and the presence or absence of blackbirds depending on whether berries are grown or not to try and explain to non-bird folk how the absence of species points to illegal activity.

    Having you make a better job of this and at the same time highlighting the stupidity of the 'sport' will be very helpful in explaining the criminality of grouse shooting to the inexpert.

  2. Well your tenacity is absolutely staggering.It is definitely worth getting a few dislikes for me encouraging it.

  3. Great blog, is it April 1st?

    Was recently working in Estonia where I was explaining the quite frankly ridiculous practices of commercial driven shooting to a group of Estonian conservationists (plus some British bird and nature enthusiasts). They were totally shocked that such bonkers practices still go on with little legal framework or regard for the law in the UK in this day and age.

    Im quite horrified by the number of British birders and conservation NGO member types (let alone the wider public) that also don't realise the scale of this stuff happening in this country - its paramount that we get this stuff across to them and if it needs an analogy criticising the French then so be it.

    Estonia is fantastic - full of great species, lots of top predators along with waders/black grouse/woodland birds etc. Best thing however, during the course of a week I saw no non-native predatory vermin at all - pheasants!

    Keep up the great work.

  4. I have been living part of each year in Languedoc fro almost 10 years now and have Friends who are birders who live there permanently. I am also a member of the local LPO.

    I have never heard or come across dagger hunting of House Sparrows. It must be very localised. Where does this happen?

  5. Does the RSPB really have over 1 million members?
    Has your total reached 10,000 yet? Will it ever?

    The BBC Countryfile poll shows 'shooting' to benefit wildlife 4:1 with 'shooting' at some 26k + - the 'noes' are less than your total Mark !

    What's going on?

    1. Trimbush - the BBC Countryfile poll doesn't show "shooting" to benefit wildlife. Only a meta analysis of all the published ecological effects of shooting could claim to do that. What the poll does show is that 4 times as many people voted to express their opinion that "shooting" benefits wildlife. Of course the question is simplistic and to really analyse whether all shooting benefits wildlife would require more than an opinion poll. It would be difficult to do and full of caveats I suspect. What is more straightforward though is that driven grouse shooting doesn't benefit wildlife. That is demonstrable fact and that's why it needs to stop. Simple.

      1. The current powers that be disregard scientific evidence. At best it only warrants consideration alongside those other more important drivers of policy; tradition, prejudicial belief and anecdote.

      1. I'm sure it does!

        And 80% have voted for the shooting industry "doing more good than harm to Britain's wildlife"

        Game over! Let the People decide? Ay?

  6. Checking my sense of morality at the door; I've got to say, hitting a sparrow with a throwing knife! That's bloody impressive. Sounds like a tall take you hear at the pub. 'I knew this bloke once, best eye you ever saw. I swear he could hit a sparra between the eyes at thirty yards...with a knife!'

  7. Absolutely priceless!

    You've neglected to mention the 'important' contribution to the Languedoc economy brought about by spadger daggering.
    It is a known fact that all the money spent on grain, medicines, ill-fitting roofs and privet would of course just vanish into thin-air, never to be seen again, were it not for this traditional Languedocian pastime.

    Keep up the good work Mark.

  8. A couple of weeks ago Mrs C and I went for Sunday lunch at the Royal Oak at Fritham - a tiny pub with a huge beer garden. Spadgers clearing up crumbs and dust-bathing around the gaff. Then on to an NGS garden for an hour, where there were no spadgers. Followed by tea and cake at the Lavender Farm at Langford. More crumbs, more dust, more spadgers. The first spadgers I have seen for many moons. From which I conclude that the decline of spadgers must be caused by the incremental losses of pubs with beer gardens and places serving cream teas. These are habitats which need urgent re-creation and I may well start a petition to that effect. Perhaps every new joint serving pizza or tarted-up bits of dead chicken should be required to reopen a pub or create a new high tea cafe - a sort of foodles-diversity offsetting that would also benefit spadgers.

  9. That's stupid and dangerous. I am talking about this article of course. Some people may actually believe what is written in this article although it's all made up crap.
    -A languedoc native.


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