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 ‘...it’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.