By Malcolm Smith
Extraordinary overseas tales starting from blood activities to bizarre bird-eating conduct; from non secular exploitation to chilling superstition; all approximately guy and birds
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Extra resources for Life with birds: a story of mutual exploitation
About the middle of the 17th century, though, falconry in Britain began to decline. Access to open land was being restricted by its enclosure with hedges, and guns, which could kill things with less effort than a falcon, were being introduced. London mews were left without their falcons and were put over to stabling horses instead! Today, according to a recent review (Falconry in the United Kingdom: An Audit of the Current Position by Nick Fox and Jim Chick for the Hawk Board, 2007), there are up to 5,000 falconers in the UK out of no fewer than five times that number who keep and/or breed birds of prey.
With densities like that, most of the birds could not survive a winter, especially a cold and prolonged one. If they weren’t shot many of them would simply starve to death. Organised grouse shoots – with beaters and pickers-up and the other adornments – are a fairly recent phenomenon, having begun around the middle of the 19th century. In 1825 there are no records of Scottish grouse moors being let for shooting and, by 1837, just eight were available! The building of the railway north – by 1863 it had reached Inverness – combined with the invention of the breech-loading shotgun in 1847 (lighter and quicker to load) made organised grouse shoots on ‘remote’ moors a real possibility.
Since 2007, the transfer of birds or fighting implements across state lines has been a federal offence with possible fines up to $250,000. State fines are generally between $5,000 and $15,000 but they can be higher. One of the biggest law enforcement busts in recent years in the US was in 2005 at Del Rio, Tennessee when 144 people were arrested, more than 300 cockerels had to be destroyed and $40,000 in cash was confiscated. ‘Cockfighting occurs in all sorts of communities and among all sorts of people’, comments ASPCA Special Investigator Mark MacDonald.