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Millions of Songbirds Killed for Cypriot Delicacy

Millions of Songbirds Killed for Cypriot Delicacy

Up to ten million songbirds are killed every year on the island of Cyprus and in other Mediterranean countries in order to supply upscale restaurants with a traditional Cypriot “delicacy”.

The delicacy, called ambelopoulia, is boiled or pickled songbirds which are swallowed whole (because it’s not cost-effective to remove their entrails). Restaurants serve this dish for high prices, offering economic incentive to poachers. The poachers catch the birds using means such as covering branches with sticky sap that are then hidden in trees where the birds nest. The birds get stuck to the branches and flap and thrash upside down until a poacher comes back to kill and bag them.

Trapping wild birds in Cyprus is illegal, but economic hardship lures poachers to the profession because it not only offers a large profit, but is also low risk due to lax enforcement of Cyprus’ conservation laws.

Lax enforcement also means restaurants aren’t shy about serving an illegal delicacy. Restaurants in Cyprus serve up a dish of ambelopoulia to anyone rich enough to afford it with little chance of legal repercussions. Tourists looking to experience “culture” and “tradition” swallow whole birds alongside wealthy locals.

The fact the dish is illegal may just add to the appeal for tourists, who romanticize what they consider to be forbidden pleasures.

It is the cycle of luxury items. Restaurant owners create a mystique around a so-called “delicacy” and sell it at a high price to customers who will shell out money for the illusion of prestige. The profits to be made draw in poor poachers who will kill anything for the right price. The government has no interest in prosecuting or stopping an illegal underground economy as long as they’re only killing animals.

And so upwards of ten million birds a year are killed to supply this black market. And populations of these birds are dropping.

Luxury, prestige, wealth and power have always been concepts that require something be trampled underfoot. Luxury products are purposefully superfluous, wasteful and unnecessary. Although modern technology makes meat available to the masses, animal flesh remains a luxury item by virtue of its being superfluous, wasteful and cruel.

Delicacies like ambelopoulia are driven by the need to create the illusion of luxury. And it is always the animals who pay the price for that illusion. Foxes die by electrocution because we want to wear fur, baby calves are confined in tiny boxes for their short lives because we want to eat veal, animals starve and are driven insane by cages because we want to gawk at them in zoos.

And millions of songbirds glued to branches flap and thrash themselves — sometimes to death — before being bagged, boiled and swallowed because we want to dine on a cultural delicacy.

Go vegan, boycott ambelopoulia, veal, foie gras, fur, leather, beef, zoos, circuses, and every other product and industry that profits from the suffering and murder of animals.

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Photo: N p holmes

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303 comments

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4:27AM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

With the abundance and variety of 'meat products' today, can anyone really justify this cruel torturous capture of this little songbird...? Surely, there is little or no meat content and perhaps, this custom may have been relevant in the dim, distant past when food was perhaps more scarce and people had to become 'inventive' in securing their protein ..... This is not viable today and does not have a place today and there is no amount of commentery that could ever justify this disgraceful and cruel practice ... Close the door on the past ... Close the door on cruelty ... Have a heart ....!

4:18AM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

There are enough 'meat products' for people to eat without resorting to the disgraceful torturous capture of little birds that quite frankly have little or no meat content on them .... Why do people hang onto to these old out-dated customs ? ..There may have been a need for this food source in the dim, distant past, but not these days - Can anyone really justify the slow, cruel death of this little songbird ....? Can you, really ....?

3:13PM PDT on Aug 7, 2011

E-w-w-w, eating these little song birds sounds awful. But it is a culturial thing .Many people eat chicken. They may not be as cute and can't sing worth a lick, but they are still birds. I think it is more the way these birds are caught that is wrong. No animal or bird should suffer.

7:18AM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Enough with the go vegan comments! If YOU want to be Vegan... then so bee it. But stop jamming it in my face! Thank you very much! As far a trapping, boiling and swallowing little song birds, just so you can brag about it to your friends... That's just wrong! Hence why it's illegal!! And those laws need to be inforced by the local police! Or are they on the pay-roll too??!!! Hummm!!!!!

11:40AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

@Colleen P. "that is why it is bad" - the cat! That is a ridiculous thing to say about any animal. I mean, at that rate, the Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Fox, Coyote, Dog etc, etc. are all "bad" as they all kill other animals in the food chain. And at the top of the ladder is "MAN" who shoots, kills and maims all around him. Not only does he kill his own, but that of every other animal known to man. He has made every animal that is extinct, extinct and continues to do so. And not only that, he gets great pleasure in seeing these animals die. Plus it is legal to do so, so that makes it "ok"..... So, please don't blame the innocent cat who knows no better, when mankind outdoes every other animal on earth for torture and killing. It's man who is killing and eating these songbirds, not the cat! To quote from the article "And millions of songbirds glued to branches flap and thrash themselves — sometimes to death — before being bagged, boiled and swallowed because we want to dine on a cultural delicacy." ALL DUE TO THE LACK OF CARE - AND THE LOVE OF MONEY - OF THE GREAT MANKIND!

6:25AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

uhh. the cat thing. not every country does this. nobody eat these in USA. you can hunt woodcock and quail. you can make laws to say "you can't hunt chickidees" but a cat won't know that. moreso if a cat is 20th gen feral/wild. that is why it is bad.

maybe all of Europe needs bird lawys like the USA has. so then nobody can own a feather from a bird that died of old age. like in USA.

5:59AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

America can send them our invaded song birds. like starlings. or is it ok for starlings to make native birds extinct? and the barn sparrows that out compete native birds? you can't tell them to live nice with them. if the sparrow eats more food than the other bird, and eats all it's food. it could go extinct.

ship them the invaded pests.

8:58AM PDT on Oct 8, 2010

I said it before. I´ts always about money and nothing else! Money rules the world.

2:28PM PDT on Sep 26, 2010

Can't believe that 1% say Yes!

8:21AM PDT on Sep 25, 2010

In reply to Cee - Fox hunting in the U.K. is illegal thanks to tireless campaigning .There will always be
people who want to 'defend the indefensible' not unlike the people who catch these songbirds in such a cruel way.

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