(Related video at http://videos.cyprus-mail.com/on-hunger-strike-for-17-days-and-counting/)
By Peter Stevenson
ON SUNDAY July 14 while most people on the island were at the beach or in the mountains relaxing, one man was taking a stand against cruelty to all living beings.
Kypros Constantinou, 30, began a hunger strike 18 days ago in an attempt to spread the word about both people and animals suffering in this world.
An unemployed postgraduate at the University of Cyprus, Constantinou became a vegetarian overnight, eight years ago.
“It wasn’t anything that I saw but it was my conscience,” he explained. “I didn’t have many pets growing up but eight years ago I adopted a dog and it clicked, how could I care for animals and still eat them?” he asked.
He made the move from vegetarian to vegan last year after reading-up on the ‘evils’ of the dairy industry as he put it.
“I would not classify this as a regular hunger strike like someone protesting when they lose their job but it’s about protesting what is happening in the meat industry and also showing solidarity for the children who don’t have enough to eat and the animals which are being mistreated,” he said.
Constantinou said he felt it was tragic that as a society we are over-breeding animals and over feeding them to satisfy our needs when there are people starving in Africa. Every evening he goes to the Phaneromeni area in Nicosia to press home his point in public.
“I might be asked what I might achieve by doing this. They tell me the starving children won’t get fed because I’m not eating but what I hope to do is help get the message out and also to shock people and make them understand what is happening in the world,” he added.
The 30-year-old explained that he hopes that once people heard about his protest that they might try to better inform themselves about what happens in the meat and dairy industries.
Meat-eating is a huge global industry, producing some 228 million tonnes of meat each year.
By 2050, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world will be eating twice as much meat as we eat now, primarily driven by the increased demand from a growing middle class in China and other developing nations.
The essential problem with meat is that it is a highly inefficient method of converting plant material into human food. Every kilo of meat requires between four and ten kilos of plant-based feed, and the oil-based chemicals used to grow it.
“Peoples’ constant need for meat is destroying the world and it’s very upsetting when you try to explain to someone what is going and all they tell you is that they can’t do anything about it,” he said.
Constantinou is taking a leaf out of Mahatma Gandhi’s book. The Indian peace guru used fasting and hunger strikes to get his point across.
“Ghandi said, be the change you want to see in the world, so myself and all of the others who are trying to get this message across to the people are trying to be that change,” he said.
Habit and routine are difficult to break but changing peoples’ attitudes is proving even more difficult, according to Constantinou.
“Cyprus is a small island and we have a small island culture which is difficult to change but thanks to networking sites like Facebook we can get our message to thousands of people for free,” he said.
So when will this hunger strike end? The 30-year-old has spoken to doctors who have told him to stop the strike. He said he feels fine but as soon as he starts feeling unwell he will stop.
“If I begin to feel unwell then I will start eating again but as long I feel fine, which I do, I will continue,” he concluded.