Monday 24 July 2017

Kevin Myers: When one of our ghastly bird-killing savages is caught, we will see how much support they have

Kevin Myers

The bogs are frozen hard, so the snipe are in the fields. One of the many pleasures of this deep winter weather is how the birds come to us; our hedgerows are dense with flocks of refugee redwings from Murmansk and Archangel, and snipe arc through the air in little flights of three or four, in the quest for food in fresh habitats.

The snipe is the unintended author of one of the most commonly-used English words in other languages: "sniper". It is good to see that the Department of the Environment this week placed a ban on shooting it, or any wildbird, while the freeze lasts.

Sportsmen will of course obey the ban; people who shoot are generally conservationists. The argument for shooting wildbirds is that nature provides a surplus, and a gun culling merely does what will happen anyway to birds who fail to find a territory or a mate in the spring. I have shot (fresh air, mostly) but I will never shoot anything again. I do not feel easy slaying even a man-reared pheasant and even if my eye were true and my hand steady enough, I could never bring myself to shoot a snipe. They are winged perfection.

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