A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Europe to France: ‘Save the Hamsters!’

Court sides with cute, endangered wildlife

The European Court of Justice is currently hearing the case of alleged genocidal murderer Ratko Mladic, who was recently captured in Serbia and brought to the Netherlands to stand trial.

But this week, the court ruled that there’s another kind of genocide going on – this time in the farmlands of France.

The Great Hamster of Alsace is about as cute-looking as they come. A little larger than your pet hamster at home, this wild cousin is roughly 10 inches tall, weighs just over a pound, and hibernates for nearly half the year. Wild hamsters make their homes in fields – especially when they have tall crops or tall grass that give them some cover from predators.

But hamster habitat has been decimated by suburban sprawl, and their old homelands have been co-opted for fields of more profitable crops that leave the hamsters in full view of foxes and birds of prey.

In March, we reported that animal protector Jean-Paul Burget had taken the cause of the hamsters to the European Court. Taking up his campaign, the European Commission brought the case before the court, arguing that France has not applied European Union law covering protected species, and that the number of hamsters in the wild in France had fallen from 1,167 in 2001 to as few as 161 in 2007.

The court has now handed down its ruling, saying that “the measures implemented by France, in 2008, were not adequate to enable effective avoidance of deterioration or destruction of the breeding sites and resting places” of the Great Alsatian Hamster.

Burget quickly called a press conference to announce that this was “a victory for biodiversity in Europe.”

France, in turn, will have to do a better job of protecting the Great Hamster of Alsace or face stiff fines from the European Union.