I was struck by a glaring contradiction in your recent piece, “Raising wild gamebirds” (in TRR’s June 5 through 11 issue), specifically with respect to the sub-headline, “A lesson in caretaking.” The article describes the participation of young people in a program aimed at restoring the wild pheasant population in New York, partly to provide stock for hunters, whereby they nurture chicks hatched at a game farm until they are mature enough to be released into the wild. Clearly, the “caretaking” goes only so far, as the intended fate for many of the birds is to be blasted to death with buckshot. I’d be curious to know if the children involved in the program are made to fully understand this. If so, I question whether it’s a “lesson” we really want to teach them. If not, it seems as if there is something dishonest, even unsavory, about the whole arrangement.
According to the article, the wild pheasant population in New York has declined by more than 90% since the 1960s, in large part due to loss of habitat from human development, but also because of an increase in predators. Well, guess what? We are one of those predators! If we want to try to reverse the damage we’ve done, then by all means let’s do so. While curtailing hunting, at least temporarily, would obviously be a logical part of that, it’s not likely to happen given the strength of the tradition. Nevertheless, we could at least rethink whether we want to continue employing children, in the name of edification, to help send these beautiful, innocent, defenseless creatures needlessly to the slaughter.