In March 2015, president Klaus Iohannis asked the Chamber of Deputies to review a hunting bill, pointing out potential serious abuse, as well as the fact that “…the amendments adopted in the present bill are of such a nature as to prejudice fundamental rights provided by the Constitution, such as the right to private property, and affect the protection of hunting fauna”. A true massacre of songbirds and many other animal species, some of which were protected, was about to become legal.

The skylark, one of the species most affected by the new bill, is legally hunted in only six countries in the European Union – Greece, Italy, France, Cyprus, Malta, and Romania; in all the other EU countries its hunting is prohibited due to its sharp population decline induced by intensive agricultural land use in the past 25 years, with the number of birds dropping by 50%, according to BBC Nature. Moreover, the skylark is one of the most beloved birds in Romania and was an inspiration for great writers and musicians of the world, including George Enescu (whose inspiration also came from the folk fiddlers’ music made famous by Grigoras Dinicu’s Ciocarlia, or The Skylark).

Taking into account the fantastic pressure and short time in which the decision of the MPs needed to be reversed, we have decided to focus the whole campaign on this national symbol, the fragile bird that is a constant presence in Romanian culture – the skylark.

Strategic objectives: Repealing the hunting bill containing the provisions put forth by the Chamber of Deputies in February and the adoption of a new bill that would include the amendments recommended by the civil society. Communication: increasing the public’s awareness of the hunting law and its implications on the environment and hunting areas; involving journalists in the debate on the catastrophic effects of the law; generating a national debate about hunting; and drawing public support for repealing the bill. Target audience: the media and opinion leaders in social media, the civil society and involved people, public figures and celebrities, MPs.

The Stop the Massacre, Save the Skylark! campaign was launched on April 22, Earth’s Day, with a video clip in which Andreea Ilie, one of the best-known Romanian mezzo-sopranos, was “shot” on stage during a performance.

We launched a blitz on the Romanian media and we provided journalists with detailed information, statistics, and the forecast impact of the proposed law. They very quickly got involved in the campaign, and for the following month the “Stop the Massacre! Save the Skylark” campaign was one of the most talked-about topics on national TV talk shows, in the print and online media, on the radio or in social media. The international reactions started to emerge immediately after the start of the campaign: journalists from BBC Wildlife Magazine and La Repubblica documented the story of the skylark and British bloggers reported extensively on the campaign and the negative impact of the bill.

It was on Facebook where a community of supporters of the cause coalesced quickly and organically, and urged the audience to sign the online petition. Many opinion leaders, as well as TV and radio personalities, supported the campaign: Cabral immediately expressed publicly his support of the campaign, Vlad Petreanu made a detailed analysis of the deleterious effects of the new hunting law, and Razvan Pascu condemned the massacre and shared the messages of the campaign.

In the context of a public agenda overfilling with political and economic issues and a zero budget, the Stop the Massacre, Save the Skylark! campaign managed, in just one month, to amend the hunting law by introducing all the changes put forth by NGOs. Moreover, the Ministry of the Environment slashed the allowed hunting quota for skylarks!