Is ortolan eating legal?

In this short article, we will answer the question “Is ortolan eating legal?” and will show you what is this barbaric French culinary tradition and will discuss what happens if someone is caught eating it.

Is ortolan eating legal?

No, ortolan eating is illegal. The shooting and cooking of ortolans were ultimately outlawed by France in 2007 as part of an EU legislation intended to safeguard the now-endangered bird from the claws of cruel chefs.

What is ortolan?

The ortolan is a small bird with a widespread distribution on the continents of Europe and Asia. It can be recognised by its emerald head and a brown body. It is mostly found in deserts, farmland, shrub fields, woodland borders, and clearings, among other habitats.

It eats primarily seeds but also has the ability to consume small invertebrates including ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. 

Although the “ortolan” bird is in danger of extinction, it serves as the inspiration for one of France’s strangest eating customs: when dining, aficionados cover their heads and plates with napkins. Each bird costs about €150 when sold illegally.

Since they are linked to an ancestor tradition and an “unforgettable” culinary experience, ortolan birds have been a source of contention amongst animal conservation organisations for the past 40 years. 

The small, endangered bird is the star of one of the strangest culinary customs in the nation, which is practised in the Landes region. 

One of Ortolan’s two migration routes in Europe is through southwestern France, which is also where the majority of the contentious foie gras is made. 

Poachers still take the animal there in spite of a 1979 European prohibition that was only enforced by France 20 years later for table use.

How is ortolan eaten?

The taste of the bird’s fat and the tenderness of its meat is valued, but not just those qualities. The animal is swallowed entire after a few bites when it is caught with bare hands rather than with cutlery: bones, feet, and viscera. 

Only the beak is left over after the meal is finished. It makes sense that enthusiasts cover their dishes and heads with napkins while tasting, ostensibly to preserve the fragrances released by the bird. The few photographs of the procedure that have been posted online and shown in the American television series Billions are difficult to visualise. 

Because the hunters were elderly grandfathers who would soon be unable to hunt and who only did it infrequently for personal purposes, France instituted a system of tolerance. 

The truth is that the issue has existed for 20 years and those other grandfathers have already taken their position. Why? because there is a financial issue involved. Each bird costs about €150 on the illegal market, which is equivalent to the price of one gramme of gold. 

Finding an ortolan is difficult because you need to know someone who knows someone who can capture the animal when it is migrating. Verilhac calculates that there are 1,000–2,000 active hunters.

Thousands of people continue to break the law in the pursuit of the peculiar culinary experience, including former president François Mitterrand, who ate some ortolan just before passing away in 1996.

What occurs if someone is discovered consuming ortolan?

The offender receives a judicial sentence. To stop the unlawful hunting of ortolans, the organisation just achieved a significant win. 

Twelve hunters, including the head of the Landes region’s Chamber of Agriculture, were found guilty by the highest court in the land. Now that it is crystal evident, no one can claim ignorance or that hunting regulation is being overstated. 

Even though they haven’t been detained or had their hunting licence revoked, anybody who does understands that they are in grave danger. 

They paid several thousand euros in fines. But what matters most is that, in the middle of the twenty-first century, we were able to disprove the notion that “it’s not that significant.”


In this short article, we will answer the question “Is ortolan eating legal?” and will show you what is this barbaric French culinary tradition and discussed what happens if someone is caught eating it.


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