Illegal Songbird Trapping Exposure Serves Us Right
Last night as I watched SigmaTV's news report on an exposé by German conservationists about the practice of wild bird poaching in Cyprus, I was appalled at the images of songbirds trapped in glue fluttering their wings in a heartbreaking struggle to escape.
But at the same time, I was glad that the extent of the practice and the brutality shown by farmers who illegally and cruelly trap birds has been exposed on a European scale. It's not just environmental activists that these farmers would threaten with force, they would treat Cypriot police in the same way, that's a fact and it has happened in the past in Ay. Theodoros village.
But the key is to get rid of the demand, there is no shortage of customers who order ambelopoulia when they can. It's them who I really hope will feel ashamed. If they don't stop ordering them, a trade that kills an estimated one million birds per year - many of them endangered species - will never stop.
As long as customers continue buying ambelopoulia in taverns and continue to feel that they are getting away with something clever, it serves us right if our tourism industry suffers, particularly the agro-tourism industry. It serves us right if the EU starts slapping us with some serious fines for breaking environmental laws. And it serves us right if we get a reputation for being a barbaric country with no respect for nature or endangered species.
Public health threat
And it would serve us right if these birds, which are not checked by any health service for diseases, cause food poisoning or spread bacteria and viruses which could lead to serious illnesses. There is a good reason that every chicken and every piece of meat that is sold on the market is checked by health inspectors. By contrast, none of the millions of songbirds that are illegally killed and sold are checked, not even once. Anyone who gets sick after eating them would hardly be likely to come forward and say they had eaten illegally-killed birds, would they?
Is this who we really are?
Do Cypriots want to be blamed for species of birds dying out? Will that be our contribution to the environment? If the answer is 'yes, that's our contribution' - then it serves us right to be exposed for who we really are.
If the answer is 'no, we want something better for our nature' - then the government should take steps to control this trade. Everyone knows which restaurants carry the ambelopoulia, police should crack down on them now. According to my sources, the Anna Maria restaurant in Ay. Theodoros village - which the activists visted - sells ambelopoulia to trusted customers in their basement.
But the owner of the restaurant denies that she sells them and said she has a 10,000 euro guarantee with authorities that she would lose if she sells them. The restauranteur thinks it's unfair that it has become illegal, she said in a telephone conversation.
"I am 50 years old, the birds are traditional Cypriot meze eaten by our grandfathers and grandmothers...it's not fair that it is illegal. Even if they are endangered species, out there they are killing people and not putting them in jail," said the owner of Anna Maria.
But this is no excuse in my opinion. If restaurants are caught even once selling songbirds, their licenses should be pulled and customers who order the birds should start being booked and fined. Influential politicians should go on television to campaign against this trade. The President should make a statement condemning this practice, which is illegal and a plague on our reputation and environmental bio-diversity.
It's time to cut short this demand - before entire species of beautiful and rare birds are cut short.
Below is the video by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) filmed by an RTL photographer and broadcast on news programes in Cyprus, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (please note that there have been technical problems with the server hosting the video, so check back soon if it does not play - alternatively check Stern's website):