Reproduced by kind permission

By Con Emmanuelle

After watching a documentary about the illegal bird slaughter that is occurring in Cyprus I rushed to contact the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) to see if there was anything I could do to help. I was invited to design a poster that could be used to change public opinion and hopefully help to stop this brutal and unnecessary practice.

The main message: STOP EATING SONGBIRDS!

Today we may be witnessing one of the saddest crimes against nature. The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) estimates that perhaps over 180 million migrating birds are killed each year across Europe in places such as Malta, Italy, Lebanon and Cyprus.

The bird slaughter in Cyprus (as in other parts of Europe) is committed for both profit and consumption. People pay a lot of money to eat these beautiful songbirds or ‘ampelopoulia’ as they are known on the island. A plate of twelve songbirds may cost well over eighty Euros in some restaurants. In recent years, poaching in Cyprus has become increasingly lucrative and ‘industrialised’. Just like the illegal ivory trade in Africa, as long as there is a demand – there will always be poaching. Sadly, the culinary habits today of many Cypriots are feeding that demand.

I am sure my own grandparents trapped and ate migrating birds that flew over their house, as did many Cypriots back in those days. Their reasons back then may have reflected an instinct that was based on using nature to survive. Perhaps it is true that poverty has prompted and developed many of our Cypriot traditions. I am told that Cypriots used to trap one particular kind of bird that was known to only feed on figs. People ate these songbirds or ‘ampelopoulia’ as a delicacy. Today however, poachers kill everything and anything that flies in the Cypriot skies and in quite staggering numbers.

The method of trapping these beautiful birds is both barbaric and brutal. Hunters and poachers use limesticks that by design, catch all the birds that settle on them. Limesticks are indeed one of the oldest known hunting methods. However, millennia ago, there were far fewer people, nature was still largely intact and hunting was a necessary evil, not a hobby. Nowadays more than a third of the limestick trapping sites that are found in Cyprus by CABS are equipped with electronic callers running throughout the night and luring large numbers of migratory birds onto the traps. There can be no talk of tradition here. In other words, the use of the word “tradition” cannot be used to justify these increasingly industrialised and commercial methods of bird trapping.

Limesticks are brutal and indiscriminate traps. As the birds land on the glue sticks, they immediately stick to their feet. After a few seconds, with the onset of panic, they tip over and catch their tail and/or wings in the sticky mass. Many try to free themselves with their beak but get their heads entangled on the glue. On hot days, the trapped birds slowly die of heat exhaustion, lack of water or simply stress. A quarter of all birds that the CABS teams find on limesticks are already dead. Of the remainder, one-fifth have plumage damage. It is common to see entire tail feathers and parts of the flight feathers left hanging on the traps. These birds will not survive the onward flight.

The number of birds caught depends on the size of the net or the number of limesticks. CABS teams sometimes find trapping sites where several birds are stuck on a single stick. In addition, many more poachers use limesticks than nets. That is why a thousand men with a few limesticks can do more damage than a dozen professional poachers using their large nets.

As a Cypriot, I am deeply ashamed of the bird poaching practice. Unfortunately, in Cyprus even the politicians seem to be looking the other way. In areas like Paralimni (within the Famagusta District) poachers go about their sinister business with what appears to be total immunity not to mention a blatant disregard for the laws of man and nature.

The bird trappers in Cyprus are particularly interested in warbler species, which are protected in all European countries. It is very heartening to see an organisation such as CABS fighting to preserve birdlife from unnecessary extinction. The birds that are killed play a vital role in the ecosystem worldwide.

Within a few years, Cyprus may help to cause the irreversible damage to the Eco-system in the region and the absence of birdsong on the island.

The problem (as I see it) is not just with the minority of people who regard this brutal practice as their legitimate hunting right – but more so – with the many Cypriots who like to eat the ‘ambelopoulia’ (including many politicians). As a wise man once said, ‘when someone is defending a barbaric act in the name of ‘tradition’ they may as well start burning old single women who live alone with black cats.’

In order to save our reputation in the eyes of the world we MUST change our eating habits and abolish the songbird from any menu in Cyprus. I am sure that many people who eat ‘ambelopoulia’ in Cyprus are not even aware about the cruel trapping methods that are used.

If we dare to call ourselves civilised and we claim to live in a civilised society, then we must stop behaving so barbarously. Moreover, the birds belong to our whole world. Fines and imprisonment may deter some poachers but may not be enough to change public opinion. I’ve heard that priests in Malta bless the guns of the poachers before the slaughter commences. As I see it, the most powerful weapon in the world today is education. Educating people, especially the young kids will help. Governments and religious leaders must lead the charge.

This is a war against ignorance and greed.
This is a battle to save nature.

So in the name of humanity – stop eating our songbirds.


My poster is available free to download and distribute from my website:

Donations to the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) can be made