But Alabama Forestry Association pigeon shoot is ended, says Georgia-Pacific
MONTGOMERY, Alabama; PRIOR LAKE, Minnesota––Having had four years of April Fools from Ducks Unlimited, Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK) hopes the Alabama Forestry Association was not just pranking when it announced on March 30, 2018––via Georgia-Pacific vice president for sustainability Deborah Baker––that it will no longer host pigeon shoot fundraisers.
Because the promise did not come directly from the Alabama Forestry Association, AFA president-elect Tom Bradley III may have wiggle room for reneging, as Ducks Unlimited has, after making a similar announcement in March 2014 from corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.
An annual pigeon shoot hosted by the Ducks Unlimited chapter in Prior Lake, Minnesota resumed in 2015 at the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club, and has continued despite SHARK-led protests and videotaping from drone helicopters.
Georgia-Pacific saw SHARK video
The international paper products maker Georgia-Pacific became involved in the Alabama Forestry Association pigeon shoots at request of SHARK, after SHARK observed that a Georgia-Pacific executive, Hank Bauer, was then the association president.
SHARK founder Steve Hindi and investigator Janet Enoch had on March 1, 2018 videotaped an Alabama Forestry Association pigeon shoot near Mobile, Alabama.
“After the shoot ended,” SHARK media liaison Stu Chaifetz wrote, “SHARK activists went to the area used for the shoot and rescued 26 pigeons who were wounded and left to die. Due to the severity of their wounds, 22 birds died or were humanely euthanized, with four survivors remaining.
Pigeons “hadn’t been fed for days”
“We must note that the birds were extremely thin and malnourished, meaning they hadn’t been fed for days before the shoot,” Chaifetz said, “adding to the cruelty involved in an already barbaric event.”
“We asked Georgia-Pacific to watch our video and investigate the pigeon shoot,” recounted Chaifetz. “To their great credit, they did, and sent us the following email:
‘We appreciate your recent note about the Alabama event and have looked into it. We have been informed by the Alabama Forestry Association that it does not plan to do these events in the future. [signed] Deborah Baker, Vice President Sustainability, Georgia-Pacific.’”
Violent response from shooters
SHARK meanwhile is thus far unsuccessfully seeking criminal charges against a participant in the most recent Ducks Unlimited pigeon shoot at Prior Lake.
The shoot participant was on March 15, 2018 videotaped in the act of driving a white 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV with the license plate “PLFD” off the pavement, toward anti-pigeon shoot demonstrators, while exiting the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club.
No one was injured.
“Last year at the 2017 Ducks Unlimited pigeon shoot, the owner of the club, Bill Urseth, assaulted Janet Enoch, a SHARK investigator,” SHARK alleged via social media.
That incident was also videotaped, including Urseth repeatedly grabbing Enoch’s wrist, against warnings from a local police officer, but Scott County attorney Ron Hocevar refused to bring charges.
SHARK first encountered Urseth and the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club in January 2012, after learning that the club was to host a 2,000-bird “Phigeon” shoot.
“We wondered what a Phigeon shoot was, so we sent an email to Terry Correll, the general manager for the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club,” Hindi recalled.
Responded Cornell, “Once upon a time a staff person got bored releasing birds over the 2 1/2 hours[that a 2,000-bird pigeon shoot typically takes] and decided to take some of the tail feathers that were left over in some of the bird crates and stuck the quill of the tail feather below the skin of a pigeon and released it. So you have pigeons flying around with long pheasant tails. It stands out like you can’t imagine…And from that day forward there have been phigeons showing up in the DU [Ducks Unlimited] shoot.”
“High ethical standards”
SHARK targeted the Ducks Unlimited pigeon shoot for protest and exposure in March 2014, but two days before the shoot was scheduled to occur, Ducks Unlimited senior communications specialist Matt Coffey emailed to SHARK that Ducks Unlimited national president Dale Hall “forwarded me your email regarding the pigeon shoot and asked that I respond to you directly.
“Earlier today,” Coffey said, “several Ducks Unlimited members contacted headquarters staff to make us aware that one of our committees was planning to hold a pigeon shoot as part of a DU event.
“We have policies in place holding our staff and local volunteers to high ethical and moral standards, and do not condone wanton waste of wildlife or other animals. To avoid the potential for wanton waste,” Coffey announced, “the event committee has decided to change the live pigeon event to a sporting clays shoot.”
Are pigeon shoots illegal in Minnesota?
SHARK celebrated, but was disappointed when the live pigeon shoot was held again in 2015, even after SHARK made Ducks Unlimited and the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club aware of a 1991 written opinion from then-Minnesota state attorney general Hubert H. Humphrey III that pigeon shoots, if any were ever held in Minnesota, would be illegal.
Humphrey, 75, is son of the late Muriel Humphrey Brown, formerly U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and Hubert H. Humphrey II, U.S. Vice President under President Lyndon Johnson, and before that the principal author of the 1958 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
Responding to then-Fund for Animals researcher Sue Rodriguez-Pastor, Humphrey acknowledged that “Minnesota does not have a law explicitly prohibiting such an event” as a pigeon shoot, but cited three laws that “could be applied to ban them.”
But Humphrey left the office of Minnesota attorney general in 1999, after serving four terms, and his successors have not attempted to prosecute the Minnesota Horse & Hunt Club.
“Money mattered more than morality”
SHARK documented the Ducks Unlimited pigeon shoots at Prior Lake in 2016 and 2017.
“Ducks Unlimited claims they are all about conservation,” said Hindi, “but the merciless slaughter of these animals proves that it’s killing that they really care about. They are also extraordinary hypocrites, as in 2014 their official position was that such slaughters were unethical and wasteful. In the end, money mattered more than morality.”
Dale Hall, who intervened against the 2014 pigeon shoot but then retreated, became Ducks Unlimited president in 2010. Hall previously spent 31 years in various capacities with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, finishing with four years as USFWS chief executive, as a second term-appointee of former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Dale Hall & Darth Vader
“Hall has infuriated wildlife activists, not to mention some of his staff, by not pushing more aggressively to protect threatened and endangered species in the Southwest,” observed Washington Post staff writer Juliet Eilperin when he was nominated to head the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in October 2005.
“In May 2005,” Eilperin wrote, “he told agency biologists they should rely on the genetic science available at the time of a species’ listing when deciding whether to recommend new safeguards for an imperiled plant or animal, even if that science dated back to the 1970s.”
Charged retired U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Sally Stefferud, “He consistently tries to get the staff to change the science.”
Always about shooting birds
Hall, though an enthusiastic lifelong hunter, was not expected to be the Darth Vader of pigeons. As the very name “Ducks Unlimited” indicates, however, the organization was founded in 1937 to encourage sufficient abundance of ducks that hunters might against be able to shoot them without bag limits, as they had before the passage of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the 1934 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act.
Shooting birds is, in short, what Ducks Unlimited has always been chiefly about.
But whatever one might think of the ethics of shooting ducks, either sitting or on the wing, wild ducks are not captured days in advance of being shot, then released to be shot at close range.