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The Editor

Dear Sir,

Only 2 years away from their probable accession to the European Union, the Republic of Cyprus, with which Britain has had strong ties for decades, is far from fulfilling the implementation of the laws governing the protection of migrating birds en route to and from their European breeding grounds.

Every year up to 20 million birds are shot or trapped on the island; most suffer a lingering death in illegal mist nets and on limed sticks. The birds, among them blackcaps, thrushes and flycatchers which weeks earlier had perhaps raised their broods in a British copse or garden, are destined for the kitchen. Yes, "four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" (or in fact pickled or grilled as 'Ambellopoulia') is still topical on Cyprus. Hundreds of thousands will be sold illegally in Cypriot restaurants for $2.50 - untaxed - apiece.

The Cyprus authorities, with the exception of the hard-worked rangers of the Game Fund, mostly turn a blind eye to this criminal activity. Indeed the well-heeled classes to which most civil servants and politicians belong, are themselves 'fig eaters' as they are euphemistically named. A sad story - but it gets even closer to home.

Whilst striving for a leading position in environmental protection in Europe, the British Government ignores, and has done for over 20 years, what is happening within areas subject to their full jurisdiction in a former colony. Whilst the Ministry of Defence in Britain has made exemplary advances in nature conservation on its training areas at home, those responsible on Cyprus turn a blind eye to the slaughter of OUR birds on their very doorstep. The age of the 'pukka sahib' is still alive on the sun-drenched but well-watered lawns, where officers and their civil advisers enjoy their 'sun-downers'. Few notice the unnatural stillness outside the picket fence where no birds sing.

It is time that Britain accepted her responsibilities. First, our bases must be freed completely from this criminal and barbaric activity and be kept free from such activities in future. Our officials must earn their pay and cooperate less grudgingly with the Cyprus authorities. Second, as one of the pillars of the European Union and a good friend of Cyprus, we should urge them to put their environmental household in order before becoming a full member of the club.

Yours faithfully

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