In his recent book, ‘House of Stone’, Anthony Shadid, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times, goes back to his ancestral Lebanese roots to rebuild an old family home (in a bizarre and sad twist of fate Shadid, having survived many wars as a reporter, died in February this year from an asthma attack brought on by his extreme allergy to horses while fleeing from Syria).
Shadid uses the rebuilding project in rural Lebanon both as a prism to revisit the country’s turbulent history and as an allegory of its present: after centuries of conflict Shadid sees the Lebanese as proud but frayed, flayed and afraid.
He recounts: ‘The war (WW1) marked years of violent anarchy that made
bloodshed casual. Disease was rife. So was famine, created by the British and French, who enforced a blockade of all ports in the Mediterranean’.
Thus the brutalisation of Lebanese society on all sides runs deep, while decency and morality get warped in the shadow of the gun: so how else to explain a slaughter of bird-life on a truly terrifying scale.
The Lebanese Eco Movement says: ‘all kinds of birds are being hunted, and most hunters are indifferent to the matter of protected birds. We are witnessing the slaughter of many protected birds, mainly soaring birds’.
Badly hit have been White Stork, White Pelican, Common Crane, Griffon Vulture, Hobby, Sparrow-hawk, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, reports the Lebanese Eco Movement on a web-site, Wildlife Extra.
It reports that hunters boast about their kills, and the bigger, the rarer and the larger the number the better. “As for the birds that can be hunted, there is no respect for the numbers and limits. We are witnessing birds being killed in thousands. A single hunter may kill more than one thousand birds. Hunters are of all ages; they may be as young as 10, even though Lebanese law prohibits holding weapons for ages less than 18. Hunting mainly takes place during weekends, but hunters can be seen any day of the week, at any place, even inside cities and between houses.”
Looked at another way, the slaughter of bird-life is a prism for what is going on in Damascus and Aleppo and has been in countless towns, cities and villages throughout the Middle East
– Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre