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.
Photo: N p holmes
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