Finch-singing contests recognised as cultural heritage
The Flemish bird protection organisation Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen (VBV) has reacted angrily to news that the unusual sport of finch-singing competitions has been included in the register of Flemish cultural heritage, announced by culture minister Joke Schauvliege last week. “This is a slap in the face for all those interested in the protection of birds in Flanders,” said director Jan Rodts.
Bird protection agency unhappy with decision
The sport, known as vinkenzetting, involves placing a male chaffinch in a closed box, then recording how many times it chirps. The boxes are lined up along the street, with the birds’ proximity to each other encouraging them to chirp to compete with rivals and establish their own territorial limits. In the past, the birds were blinded; now they are kept for the occasion in a closed box.
There are estimated to be about 13,000 enthusiasts in Flanders, breeding 10,000 birds a year. However, VBV says, many of those used in competitions are wild birds trapped illegally. Schauvliege said the sport was covered by the general law on animal welfare and the government fully enforced the EU-wide ban on trapping.
Other inclusions in the register include the special method for cultivating witloof under banked-up soil, the Waregem Koerse horse races and the traditional Flemish flower parades. It already includes the Aalst carnival celebrations and the Holy Blood procession in Bruges.
• Animal rights organisation Gaia is “delighted” with a change to the law making it illegal for circuses to feature wild animals. “It is clear the welfare of wild animals in circuses cannot be guaranteed,” said director Ann De Greef. “These animals don’t belong there, so a ban is the only fair measure. This is a new milestone in the struggle for animal rights.”
Gaia began campaigning in 1995 for a ban, and in 2005 the government imposed on circuses the same rules on space and amenities as apply to zoos. Since then, 230 municipalities have banned wild animals in circuses on their own territory. The new law sets up a list of permitted animals, including buffalo, llamas, camels, sheep, dogs and cats. All those not on the list are forbidden.