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Millions of Songbirds Do Not Need to Suffer Gruesome Deaths So the Olive Industry Can Save a Buck

Birds like the redwing seem to be dazzled by the strong lights of the machines. At night, they become disoriented and can wind up getting sucked into the harvesters, with fatal consequences.

ECOWATCH: ‘It’s an incredibly efficient way to harvest the olives destined for our cooking oil, martinis, and charcuterie platters. And according to the Olive Oil Times, night harvesting preserves the aromatic qualities of the crop. But the benefits stop there. Birds like the redwing seem to be “dazzled by the strong lights of the machines,” said Vanessa Mata, an ecologist at the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources in Portugal. During the day, the birds would simply fly away. At night, they become disoriented and can wind up getting sucked into the harvesters, with fatal consequences…

In southern Spain, olive farmers sometimes sell the dead to local restaurants which offer them on menus as “fried birds” — an illegal practice that is “highly pursued by the Ministry of Health,” according to a new report by the environmental council of the regional government of Andalusia, in Spain… the practice is a clear violation of the Birds Directive, the European Union’s equivalent of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Not only is it illegal to kill migratory birds in flight, but it’s also against the law to disturb them while they’re resting…

The problem is not just a local issue of some unfortunate and accidental songbird deaths. According to a letter that Mata recently published in the journal Nature, Portugal’s night harvesting machines vacuum up some 96,000 birds each year. It’s even worse in Andalusia, where as many as 2.6 million birds disappear annually during nocturnal harvesting. (France and Italy also harvest olives at night, but neither country keeps records of the practice’s toll on wildlife)…

Because night harvesting is relatively new, information is scarce about its impact on wildlife and the environment. That’s what makes these new reports so eye-opening — they’re the first to put numbers on paper. But we’re going to need a lot more numbers to understand the true scope of the problem… All told, we’re talking about many millions of migratory birds slain each year by the international olive industry. This is obviously bad news for redwings, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies as near threatened, but plenty of other species are taking a hit too’. SOURCE…

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