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WE CAN'T TURN A BLIND EYE TO THE MASS SLAUGHTER OF 20 MILLION BIRDS A YEAR ON CYPRUS
In 2 years time, in 2004, the Republic of Cyprus will almost certainly accede to the European Union. They are however light years away from implementing the EU Bird Directive which is designed to protect migrating species en route to and from their European breeding grounds. Britain is also a minor accomplice, through omission, before, during and after the fact.
Of the 20 million birds annually shot or trapped on the island, most of which suffer a lingering death in illegal mist nets and on limed sticks, are native British and North European breeding species. The blackcap chicks raised in the next-door garden, or the flycatcher on the fence post in the lane, may have disappeared down the throat of a diner (swallowed whole or crunched according to taste) this winter in a Cyprus tavern.The 'Ambellopoulia', usually consumed by the dozen at $2.50 each (untaxed), are the successors of the "Four-and-twenty blackbirds" of our nursery rhymes.
This criminal, but highly profitable activity, is mostly ignored by the Cyprus authorities. Indeed the well-heeled classes to which most civil servants and politicians belong, are themselves 'fig eaters' as they coyly call themselves. A sad story - but it gets even closer to home.
The British Government is rightly striving to give environmental protection and conservation a high priority in Britain and Europe. Even the MOD, which has had other things on its plate, has made exemplary advances in nature conservation on its training areas in Britain. It is therefore all the more difficult to understand why the British administration on Cyprus are unwilling to react effectively, in cooperation with the Cyprus authorities, within the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) on Cyprus where they have full jurisdiction. It is time that their masters in Whitehall gave them their marching orders and set priorities.
Britain must accept - and implement - her full international (Berne Convention) and European Union (Bird Directive) responsibilities in areas where she has sovereign jurisdiction. First, our bases must be freed completely from this criminal and barbaric activity and be kept free from such activities in future. Our officials take a firm and unrelenting line; and cooperate fully 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.
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