A global sports retailer with stores in Scotland is embroiled in controversy after being accused of “promoting and profiting” from the “slaughter” of songbirds.
French multinational Decathlon, which has shops in Renfrew and Edinburgh, has been targeted by animal rights campaigners after advertising gun cartridges specially designed for killing songbirds.
Several organisations have expressed concern over the firm’s promotion of songbird hunting and a petition highlighting the issue had more than 42,000 signatures at time of writing.
The petition calls on the company to revise its product range and “make a meaningful contribution to wildlife protection”. It also says that Decathlon’s claim that it aims to “protect our mother nature” and “have a positive impact on the planet” should be removed from its websites.
Decathlon UK responded by apologising on Twitter and saying that the gun cartridges advertised were not for sale in the UK – although they are available to buy in other countries due to different wildlife laws. But critics say the company should stop promoting the hunting of songbirds completely in order to protect threatened bird species across Europe.
We want to appologise, as there have been issues both with the translation of some product information and also products we don't sell in the UK (cartridges for example) appearing on the website, even if they were not available to purchase.
— Decathlon UK (@DecathlonUK) July 16, 2020
Decathlon, which has 2000 stores in 56 countries, advertises gun cartridges which are specially designed by its “hunting engineers” for shooting “thrush, songbirds, redwing, fieldfare and mistle thrush”.
This has roused opposition though and the petition against the French firm says: “Within the borders of the EU, birds have had special conservation status since the creation of the landmark Birds Directive in 1979, a policy designed to protect the populations of all bird species from hunting and habitat loss.
“Nevertheless the activity continues today – purely for entertainment, and also for profit. ‘Hunters’ pay to partake in shooting trips, and songbird recipes are still prized in many European restaurants.”
The petition was started by Colin Maclennan who questioned why the “otherwise respected global sports retailer Decathlon” should be promoting the “slaughter of wildlife for entertainment, particularly the songbirds and migratory birds which we know and love”.
He told The Ferret: “This includes many at-risk species such as turtle doves which governments and conservation bodies have been working for decades to protect. The killing of tens of millions of birds across Europe each year is totally unacceptable, and we won’t be letting up until Decathlon reverse their unsustainable and immoral approach.”
The issues facing any species whose numbers are in such serious trouble need addressing urgently, which includes the promotion of their continued hunting across Europe. RSPB spokesperson
A spokeswoman for the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) also expressed concern and said: “This advert refers to song birds and small migratory birds, which are some of our most threatened species. The turtle dove has seen UK numbers decline by 98 per cent since 1970.
“The issues facing any species whose numbers are in such serious trouble need addressing urgently, which includes the promotion of their continued hunting across Europe.”
Eve Massie, of animal welfare charity, OneKind, described the hunting of songbirds and migratory birds as a “cruel pastime”.
She added: “We were appalled to learn that Decathlon UK had listed a range of products on its website being promoted as ‘specially designed’ for the killing of ‘songbirds’ and ‘small migratory birds.
“While we appreciate that Decathlon UK may have listed the products promoting the killing of songbirds and migratory birds in error, they still stock hunting clothing for the legal hunting of animals in the UK on their website.
“We’d urge Decathlon UK to recognise that animals are sentient beings, who can experience considerable mental and physical suffering when hunted, and to stop promoting sporting products for the hunting of animals.”
We believe in preserving our playground and so we adhere to the Blue Economy principle and follow sustainable production methods to help extend the life of Earth and its inhabitants. Decathlon UK spokesperson
A UK-wide charity called SongBird Survival said it was “horrified” to learn that Decathlon was advertising gun cartridges specifically for killing songbirds, but subsequently “pleased” when it learned the firm had removed the sale of the gun cartridges from its UK website.
A spokesperson for SongBird Survival added: “UK songbird numbers have fallen by 50 per cent in the past 50 years, with many key species threatened with extinction. It appears that this item was accidentally made available on the UK website because Decathlon is an international store, and its websites are merely translated from one country to another; the advertised stock is therefore the same across all websites.
“In the UK, wildlife crime is obviously outlawed, and sales of such products are thus entirely inappropriate. This may not be the case in other countries to which Decathlon supplies its goods, however.”
Decathlon UK did not reply to our repeated requests for a comment. A statement on the firm’s website says it aims to “have a positive impact on the planet”.
The statement adds: “Many of the products we design, manufacture and sell will be used in the great outdoors. We believe in preserving our playground and so we adhere to the Blue Economy principle and follow sustainable production methods to help extend the life of Earth and its inhabitants.”
Photograph thanks to SongBird Survival.