Friday, March 6, 1998

LebEnv # 49


by Fareed Abou-Haidar

(Note: Some of the quoted material has been slightly edited for grammar.)

My recent two-part article on hunting (poaching) in Lebanon generated a large number of responses. One person was surprisingly frank in expressing the primitive sensation one gets from killing for fun. He wrote:

"You haven't lived until you hunted in the hills of Swaki in the North, You get such a rush when birds fly over you and then POW, they just go down in a straight dive in front you... Even the smell of gun powder is exciting...

"I hunted this last summer Lebanon; it is so much fun, I am looking forward to it this summer."

He did not seem to care that he was breaking the law that bans hunting in Lebanon till at least the end of 1998. Perhaps he will get arrested this summer. He got the following response from a sympathetic (to me) reader:

"As you do, replace in the above paragraph "birds" with "(hunter's name) family" and "fly" with "pass by".. and see if you still get the same rush."

He later added this quotation:

"It's astounding how little it takes to make people proud when they've been doing things they should be ashamed of." -- Kelvin Troop

The hunter fired back (oops!):

"Oh god! The last of the hippies is here on SCL; hey flower child why don't you go and fry yourself a veggie bird delicacy... As far as your advice goes, I will think of it the next time I am at my favorite All-You-Can-Eat Sushi bar, I will see if your advice works with the fishes..."

Whatever that means...

In another message, he mentioned his favorite restaurant in responding to an inquiry:

"Can I get the address of that restaurant, I missed eating 3assafir, fried in butter and a splash of lemon...

"If you are in Lebanon you should definitely try the 3assafir at Mat3am Mhanna 3al (on) autostrad Antelias!"

It's good to know which restaurant to avoid on my next trip to Lebanon. Mhanna Restaurant is either breaking the law by offering songbirds illegally shot in Lebanon or smuggled from Syria, or it is offering game birds raised in a legal manner; the latter situation is fine.

Another reader wrote:

"Besides spear gun fishing, hunting is the only other sport I really enjoy in Lebanon. What else is there to do????

"Where can you jog without being hit by some crazed driver?? Where can you practice your favorite sport??? Very few public courts and fields are available.

"Finally, I feel bad for that Lebanese man whose foreign girlfriend dumped him after he ordered "Assafir". He probably did not enjoy this delicacy after she left.

"I bet you that she spoiled his dinner."

To that I answer: While it is true that Lebanon lacks state-of-the-art sporting facilities, there is still a lot to do. Wake up! The war ended over seven years ago! As bad as traffic is, you can still find places to jog. You can try hiking; it's just like hunting, minus the gun and blood! It will take you to lesser known areas of Lebanon away from the crowds and traffic, where you can enjoy the scenery and breathe fresh air. How about a pair of binoculars to observe birds? At least you don't have to spend money feeding it cartridges every time you use it. How about kayaking down a river? There's an outfit that does that down the Litani and other rivers. How about cross- country or downhill skiing? Lebanon has some of the best skiing in the world and was recently featured in Powder magazine for its great cross-country skiing.

Yet another reader wrote:

"Miss the food, and love eating the birds but the hunting is reckless. There should be restricted areas and enforced rules of safety. Hunting for food and hunting for sport are too different things. Too many are hunting for the sport, the fun of the kill."

Sounds generally supportive. But, if you miss eating birds, our "asafir" (songbirds) dish can be substituted for game birds raised on farms or hunted under regulated conditions as they are in many countries. The taste may or may not be the same as "asafir," but no one has died from being deprived from eating songbirds. Many people have likely died from the chemicals that are used to combat agricultural pests formerly eaten by birds.

Fareed Abou-Haidar

Fareed's Home Page (with articles and photos on the environment in Lebanon) at

(See other photographs from some of the areas mentioned above.)



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