Officials reportedly made a gruesome discovery at the border of Romania earlier this month -- around 10,000 recently shot songbirds were seized from a Romanian truck.
In a statement, Traffic, a "wildlife trade monitoring network," writes that according to MTI, the Hungarian News Agency, officials became suspicious after noticing boxes in the refrigerated truck that appeared different to others containing meat and sausage products.
Inside, they discovered thousands of songbirds, which, according to the statement, appeared to have recently been shot.
MongaBay.com reports it's likely the illegal haul was headed to restaurants in northern Italy. The Committee Against Bird Slaughter also writes the birds are favored as a delicacy by some Italian gourmet chefs.
The group states the "trade in shot Skylarks and other song birds is a multimillion business in Italy, costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of song birds every year." Adding: "The Italian forest police annually seize thousands of illegally acquired wild birds in restaurants and game butchers shops, which always include deliveries of migrant birds smuggled in from the Balkans."
The majority of birds in the haul included Eurasian skylarks, Calandra larks, red throated pipits, bluethroats, European goldfinches, fieldfares, mistle thrushes, reed buntings and white wagtails. None of these birds are listed as endangered according to the ICUN Red List.
The driver was arrested and faces 10 months imprisonment after being prosecuted under a fast-track procedure, according to a Traffic International press release.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told The Huffington Post in an email:
PETA applauds Hungarian officials for their swift action following the discovery of thousands of birds cruelly gunned down and trucked across the country's borders, apparently destined for restaurants in Italy. Diners should be warned that such so-called "delicacies" come at a high price: Animals not only pay with their lives for such fleeting indulgences but also often aren't killed quickly and suffer agonizingly slow, painful, and frightening deaths. We implore Italy and other countries whose citizens shoot and net migrating birds to follow Hungary's example and crack down on restaurants that serve animals obtained cruelly and often illegally.
In 2008, the illegal trade of wild birds was raised at a meeting for European government agencies involved in regulating wildlife trade.
A statement released by Traffic at the time says: "According to research by Traffic ... hundreds of thousands of birds are illegally killed and exported in an industry worth an estimated EUR10 million (US$13.53 million) per year."
"The majority of bird species illegally hunted in Europe are songbirds, such as finches, warblers, pipits and buntings, which are protected under international treaties, EU and national legislation, particularly the EU's Birds Directive," Traffic states.
According to their research, the trade has been going on for some time: In 2003, two hunting tourism firms were found by the Italian court to have helped smuggle more than two million birds into Italy, which had been shot in Serbia over a six year period.