Sitting ducks

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At the Town Board meeting on April 8, local and concerned citizens came to express their outrage and disgust over a situation at Spring Farm in Sag Harbor that has been allowed to sneak under the radar for far too long. There, thousands of wild birds are held captive under the most wretched conditions, for eventual slaughter in “canned shoots,” a “sport” in which confined birds are released to be shot with virtually no chance of escape.

Those who do not die immediately suffer protracted, agonizing deaths. Canned shoots are devoid of all compassion and fair play, making the hunter nothing more than a sanctioned killer in a shooting gallery. Like canned hunts, such shoots are considered the “sport of cowards,” even by hunters. A sport implies a mutual contest in which both sides are willing participants with equal attributes and chances. One could hardly say that about the thousands of birds imprisoned on Spring Farm. When captured and released for the shooters, they are indeed little more than “sitting ducks.”

Photos on flickr.com/photos/springfarm reveal appalling conditions under which these birds are forced to live and a potential environmental disaster resulting from run-off polluted by waste, guns shells and the thousands of dead birds that litter the grounds. Questions arise that demand an answer:

A. Is there a serious or dangerous environmental issue that needs to be investigated concerning the rotting corpses of birds, the filthy groundwater conditions and the litter of countless gun shell casings?

B. Is there a danger to the public, either directly from stray gunshots or the accidents that could and have been caused by motorists trying to avoid wounded and disoriented birds on the turnpike?

C. Is there a cruelty issue involved if birds are left to suffer and die?

D. Is there a nuisance or disturbing the peace and quiet issue if neighbors complain about the constant noise of the thousands of gunshots?

E. Is there a violation of the law if wild and domestic game are able to “mix and mingle?” This is prohibited, presumably, because of the possibilities of the transmission of disease that exist if a bird escapes.

F. Are the dead birds consumed by people or family pets? According to the Spring Farm owner, the dead birds are collected by workers, put in piles on the property and then distributed to the poor. The abnormally high lead content found in birds suffering from gunshot wounds that escaped and were taken to the Wildlife Rescue Center would make this a serious health hazard and a reckless disregard for the well being of those who eat them.

G. Are the appropriate “hunting” dates and licensing being observed insofar as the killing of game?

Why people who managed to get $6 million of taxpayer money for the “development rights” of their property need to sell for profit the right to cruelly kill thousands of beautiful birds is a mystery to most civilized people. They must be laughing all the way to the bank.

And even more puzzling is the defense offered by their unenlightened friends at Town Hall. Town Supervisor Linda Kabot was quick to use her position and control of the bully pulpit to explain away as “tradition” the obscene and unconscionable treatment of the thousands of birds that are mercilessly butchered in these hideous shoots. In the words of Christian theologian Andrew Lindsey, “All life is holy, sacred or God-given. Life therefore has intrinsic value, and all that lives has an interest in living.”

It’s surely time for Southampton to say: “No more slaughter for greed! No more killing for fun.”

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