By George Psyllides
Ruling DISY MP Evgenios Hamboullas caused uproar over the weekend after he posted a picture on social media with a platter of what appear to be songbirds whose hunting and consumption are banned.
The MP who hails from Famagusta, a well known trapping hotspot, commented on his Facebook photo, which includes himself smiling: “Soon in our restaurants! Happy Holidays.”
The photo caused an uproar on social media, with many commentators demanding a response from his party, which never misses a chance to highlight its European values and adherence to European principles.
DISY issued a statement on Monday, seeking to distance itself from its MP’s act.
“In relation with MP Evgenios Hamboulla’s post and comments on social media regarding ambelopoulia, the Democratic Rally reiterates its unwavering position on the full respect of European Directives and national law.”
“Beyond that, everyone is accountable and judged by their positions, and assume the responsibility of their actions.”
Caught on limesticks or mist nets, the birds, locally known as ambelopoulia, end up served as delicacies.
BirdLife Cyprus estimates that 2.5 million birds are illegally trapped every year in Cyprus, including threatened and endangered species.
Seen by many as a ploy to win votes ahead of May’s parliamentary elections, Hamboullas got some 500 ‘likes’ on his post and many comments praising his position and guts.
“If only we had five more MPs like him in parliament,” said one supporter in response to a comment that Hamboullas should have been ousted by DISY.
His party colleague Andreas Themistocleous – no stranger to controversy himself over past utterances about gays — posted a sarcastic comment: “Big sin Evgenios. Those eating ambelopoulia missed the heavenly kingdom.”
“Bravo my friend, that’s it, don’t be afraid,” said another.
But there were those who slammed the MP, one calling him an insignificant human being. “Enjoy your delicacies. One day people like you will be forgotten.”
“It is of no significance if some species are important for dozens of habitats in Europe, Africa, and Asia and are on the brink of extinction as long as our belly and gluttony are fine,” a female poster said.
“An MP who approves legislation and breaks the law and presents it as an accomplishment. Mr. Hamboullas, the way you’re trying to win votes is illegal and sick,” wrote another.
Supporters of trapping and consuming ambelopoulia have always argued that it has been a tradition on the island and should be allowed.
Opponents however, point out that it has since become a multi-million euro industry, so lucrative, that it has attracted the underworld.
Conservation organisation BirdLife Cyprus said the MP’s positions were already known but what was worrying was his comment, which suggested legalisation of serving ambelopoulia at restaurants.
“Thus collapses the myth of ‘tradition’ along with the claims of alternative planning that the cabinet introduced in May, 2015 and which Hamboullas warmly supported,” BirdLife said.
The cabinet had approved a scheme to allow selective hunting, supposedly in a bid to tackle the systematic, large-scale poaching of birds. The proposal provided for the use of slingshots and airguns.
It is understood that it has been rejected by the European Commission.
BirdLife said it was clear that the scheme’s objective was the immediate legalisation of hunting, trapping, and trading of ambelopoulia.