How difficult it was to restrain tears on reading in the Greek press (Philelefteros, August 20) the article detailing the distress wreaked upon the hunting brotherhood due to the shrinking of their hunting zones. These self-appointed paragons of conservation state that the reason for the reduction of “nature areas” is the fault of insensitive citizens building their legal homes smack in the middle of their slaughter-grounds. As if the right to legally build a home takes second place to their inalienable right to annihilate our Cypriot fauna and wake us in our beds at dawn on the sacred day of rest!
I know I am not alone in deploring the cultivation of barbarism disguised as sport on this ecologically sensitive island. So in the hope that what follows might inspire others to join ranks, let me list only what I have personally witnessed of the conservation efforts of these champions of the countryside over the last three decades.
Pride of place has the shooting of our dog Moses, who had the audacity to bark at hunters as they broke through our garden fence in the frenzy of the chase. He survived after lengthy and costly surgery, a changed and depressed creature. Due to his inability to state the identity of his would-be executioner to the police, we didn’t pursue the case. Moses spent the rest of his invalid life barking insanely at anything faintly resembling a rifle report.
Next: the crazed driving of quad-bikes through private orchards and the beating of tins to scare animals out of hiding; the open feeding in field and forest with sacks of grain to attract game; the utter disrespect for private property, and the deliberate shooting in the direction of occupied houses and farms to intimidate residents with complete disregard for their safety or the well-being of pets and farm animals; the constant degradation and pollution of the environment by dropping cartridge cases and littering wherever hunting occurs; the indiscriminate shooting of protected birds and other fauna, including cats and stray dogs; the destruction of public property with the shooting of signs and placards; the abandonment to the wild of ageing or undesirable hunting dogs that “no longer earn their keep”; the poisoning of the soil and water-table over vast areas of Cyprus with lead shot, so much so that precious breeding areas for migratory birds and other resident species are now endangered; the disgraceful exhibitionism of ‘heroic’ hunters parading their kills tied to the bloodied bonnets of their double-cabins … the dreary list goes on.
Only recently new signs allowing hunting in a previously forbidden area one hundred metres from my home between Dali and Potamia were erected. One wonders what has changed on the ground to allow this since hunting isn’t permitted within two hundred metres of a residence. Perhaps the length of a metre was halved overnight. The Game Fund explained that they had given in to pressure from the local hunting association, furious at the systematic whittling away of their hallowed turf. I ought to add that since legal hunting was restricted here more than a decade ago the area has become a true haven for wildlife attracting enthusiasts, cyclists, walkers and visitors to its ancient monuments, especially of course, on Sundays. We have begun our own initiative to have the decision reversed; but how did this new zone come into being in the first place since it contravenes all the rules governing safe zones around houses, farms, roads and built-up areas? If it was passed through parliament, how did this happen? This is the real matter.
We live in a state where the law is hostage to any two-bit lobby bent on promoting their selfish, often illegal, agendas at the expense of ordinary law-abiding citizens. They get what they want because they know which palms to grease, which buttons to push. They are organised and cunning and have only their own interests at heart, hiding behind cheap and brazen slogans such as appear on their websites.
“The Cypriot hunter is the best protector of Cypriot wildlife and the environment!”
Ha! This is an insult to all who truly care about Cyprus and its extraordinary flora and fauna. I know many, over many years, and none of them get their kicks from killing defenceless, virtually flightless, ‘oven-ready’ birds in order to be big men in the kafeneion.
And before any readers take aim at my being a “whinging Brit”, let me state that I am a Cypriot citizen, with a lineage as long and proud in this locality as any sons of Idalion.
Duncan ‘Tsiaklis’ McCowan
Author of 60 Cypriot Spiders