Sunday's for the Birds: Dining on the Endangered

While researching my book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Cranes: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida, 2012), Allen tells a story of locals hunting the protected flamingos in Cuba for food in the early 1950s. As long as people in this impoverished country were poor and hungry, protecting the rare bird would prove futile. In cases like this, it is easy to sympathized with these people and the efforts they undertook to find food. But when I read about protected or endangered animals ending up on someone’s dinner plate in the name of “fine dining,” my blood begins to boil. 
         As few months ago I read a book by a writer/traveler/chef whose name I won’t mention. Up until this point, I’d read every book he’d ever written. The man has a tendency to be overbearing and narrow-minded, too critical of other chefs and even irreverent in his opinions, but I respected the guy for his approach. He’s also an excellent writer. However, his latest book describes an event in which several chefs were treated to a course of Ortolan, a small migratory bird whose numbers are dwindling. The bird is part of the bunting family and is listed as “protected,” which means it is illegal to capture or kill the Ortolans. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from ending up in haute restaurants. It is customary for a diner to place a napkin over his head before he pop the roasted bird into his mouth. This way he captures the aroma while he chews. Tradition also suggests it is a way of covering ones shame for eating a rare bird.
         I don’t often pontificate on controversial issues, although maybe I should. After I read this book, I placed it on my shelf and decided that this was the last book I would read by this author.
         What spurred this topic was a similar instance I’d read about yesterday. Birds, such as blackcaps, warblers, flycatchers, shrikes, nightjars, and even owls are being captured in mist nets and on limesticks  in Cyprus are served in restaurants. Since this September, more than 900,000 birds have been illegally killed in this manner. 
Read the complete article on the link below. You can also sign a petition to stop this heartless practice. And believe me, these folks who are dining on these birds are not otherwise going hungry.