They were one of Europe’s most beloved and colorful little birds and were the main course for a group of Italians sitting for a secret lunch.
Police in the northern part of the country are investigating a group of civil servants allegedly caught in the red trying to invade dozens of illegally hunted birds, including the chafinch, goldfinch, siskin, and brambling.
Officials in the villages of Val Trompia and Gardone Val Trompia near the city of Brescia have been investigated for violating wildlife conservation and hunting laws.
They have also been accused of violating the Covid-19 lockdown rule, which bans the gathering of more than a few people when convened for an illegal feast in a parliamentary building.
The diet they were trying to sit on was allegedly containing rare species such as hawkfinch and crossbill.
More than 60 birds were found by Carabinieri officers – about 3 small bodies in each canteen.
Massimo Ottelli, the chairman of the local council to which the officials belong, said the case was “extremely sad” and ready for disciplinary action.
The National Animal Conservation Society said: “We are disappointed and angry. The people who should set an example are often those who don’t care about the law.”
The Anti-Hunting Federation called the incident “shameful,” but said the area around Brescia was “the worst in Italy and one of the worst poaching in Europe.”
Eating such a small songbird may not appeal to many, but it is seen as a delicacy in some parts of Europe.
French gourmets are famous for their love of eating buntings from Ortran. Small birds are captured alive, fed grain, drowned in Armagnac tubs, and then roasted in their entirety.
Diners cover their heads with linen napkins as they pass through the bones of birds.
The napkin is for keeping the scent of yakitori and is said to hide the shame of eating from the eyes of God.