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Review: Emptying the Skies

Millions of migratory song birds are eaten each year in the Mediterranean. These birds are legally protected of course, so the consumption of them is done on the sly but remains a popular delicacy none the less. Emptying the Skies is based on novelist Jonathan Franzen’s essay for The New Yorker.

According to the documentary the law holds these birds to be “The common heritage of all Europeans” and not the meals of the few who still brazenly hunt them. Despite being implemented in 1979, Europe’s “Birds Directive” has never been adequately enforced. Enter Andrea, Sergio and Piero from CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter) who are trying to change this by confronting the poachers face to face. In one scene Andrea frees a tiny bird in Cypress from a glue trap. After gently massaging the glue remnants out of the bird’s wings he releases it from his cupped hands and a tiny smile appears on his face. Although he has probably freed thousands of similar such birds the joy at watching their release has not diminished.

And it is not just the country dwellers of Cyprus and Malta -practicing a centuries old hunting tradition – who are to blame. In one scene we see British TV host Jeremy Clarkson devouring an endangered Ortolan Bunting in an upscale restaurant in Gascony, France. Clarkson asks about the question of cruelty and one diner replies that being drowned in Armagnac is not a bad way to go.

Emptying the Skies, introduces us to the imminent extinction of many species of migratory songbirds. A fact that began with and continues to be caused by habitat lose and illegal poaching. We are also asked to consider the birds that are around us everyday, no matter who we are or where we are. A world filled with birds is definitely something that we take for granted and yet this simple act of awareness could prevent extinction

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