The July 26, 2010 issue of the New Yorker has a story about songbirds trapped in southern Europe, specifically Cyprus, in order to make a Cypriot dish known as “ambelopoulia.”
This dish is shown at right. It’s considered a delicacy, and it’s expensive. That’s why trapping the birds is so attractive, despite the fact that, according to the New Yorker, all forms of songbird trapping have been illegal since 1974 in Cyprus.
The birds are trapped by fine nets, or by what are called “lime sticks” – perches fixed in forests and fields, smeared with a glue-like substance. The birds land on them to rest, and are stuck by their feet. Some hang upside down for hours, or longer. Yet the practice continues. Poachers gather the birds, which are then pickled or grilled and sold in restaurants. Any literally bite-sized bird will do.
The International Animal Rescue and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter are actively working against this practice and are trying to expose the trappers to the world.
It’s especially sad to me because, some years back, EarthSky interviewed a scientist about the fact that birds – among all creatures on Earth – are less likely to be affected by human encroachment due to their ability to fly. In this instance, though, even flying doesn’t help save the birds.
This practice is surely as old as humanity itself. Yet – in the millions of years of past human history, when nature seemed infinite – the trapping and eating of songbirds must have seemed more justifiable.
On a world with 6.8 billion human inhabitants, trapping songbirds in order to eat them is hard to understand.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.