By Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) - France has suspended the glue-trapping of songbirds this year but stopped short of abolishing the controversial practice which is criticised as barbaric by bird lovers and banned under European Union regulations.
President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement on Thursday that, following a meeting with environment minister Barbara Pompili and hunting federation president Willy Schraen, the quota for hunting thrushes and blackbirds with glue traps will be set to zero this year.
France is the only country to still allow the catching of birds with glue traps - and other "traditional" methods such as snares and nets - despite a 1979 European Union ban.
Under a 1989 decree allowing glue trapping as long as it is "selective, controlled and in limited quantity", France has allowed the practice every year despite protests by bird protection organisations, who say that glue traps cause severe stress and that protected species are also caught in them.
"This is a good result, because until now every year an exception was made allowing the hunt. But they are not banning the practice, only suspending it," France Bird Protection Association president Yves Verilhac told Reuters.
The association says glue trapping is a "cruel and odious" practice from a bygone era and that France should join other EU nations in outlawing it completely.
Verilhac said Macron was merely responding to a July 4 European Union injunction and the threat of EU legal action against France.
The Elysee palace statement said France was awaiting a response from the European Court of Justice about legal issues involving glue trapping.
Hunting federation chief Schraen said on BFM televison that there was no reason to ban glue trapping and that his association would fight the decision in court.
"There are just a few thousand hunters in the south of France and they have been doing this for decades. It has no impact on bird numbers" he said.
He said that no protected species were being caught this way and that the suspension was a purely political decision.
"I defend these rural values, which must continue," he said.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)