The European Union’s highest court ruled Thursday that France could be fined up to $24.6 million for its treatment of… wait for it … a hamster.
The Court of Justice in Luxembourg says that France has failed to adequately protect the great hamster of Alsace, the New York Times reports.
If you’re wondering why all this fuss would be made about an animal that seems perfectly happy lying in a bed of shredded newspapers, the great hamster is Western Europe's last remaining species of wild hamster. There are only about 800 left in France. And although the animal has been legally protected since 1993, the European Commission said there were fewer than 200 just four years ago. The European Commission launched the lawsuit in 2009.
The Times explains that France must alter its urbanization and agricultural policies to better protect the threatened animal. Although the hamster feeds on things like grass and alfalfa, these have largely been replaced by corn, which is unripe when the hamster awakens from hibernation each spring. Adding to the animal’s troubles is the fact its grazing area is shrinking because of urbanization.
Jean-Paul Burget, president of Sauvegarde Faune Sauvage, said France must work to raise the hamster population up to 1,500. Burget also told the Times that France should commit to old agreements it made to grow the cereals the hamster eats, which is strange, because we thought hamsters only ate those pellets from the pet store.
Sauvegarde Faune Sauvage—or Safeguard Wildlife, for those of you who didn’t take French in high school—filed an initial complaint to the European Commission on behalf of the great hamster in 2006.