My last post described how puffins at Sumburgh Head were the highlight of an otherwise miserable visit to Shetland earlier this year. I hope future generations will have the same opportunity to enjoy them, but the prospects are not good. The Atlantic Puffin is now identified on the BirdLife International/International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as a vulnerable species. Massive population declines are projected over the next 50 years because of food shortages due to climate change, as well as pollution, predation by invasive species and adult mortality in fishing nets.
Iceland is one of the puffin’s strongholds. Mrs P and I have visited Iceland on a couple of occasions, and were impressed by the Icelanders’ ability to carve a decent living out of that bleak, inhospitable lump of rock in the North Atlantic. To do so they had to use whatever nature offered, and therefore included seabirds as an important part of their diet.
Harvesting and eating puffins is traditional in Iceland, and I can – reluctantly – forgive the locals for doing so, even though I myself would no more snack on a puffin than I would dine on broken glass.
But I cannot forgive Icelanders for allowing puffin trophy hunting.
The Metro newspaper reported recently that trophy hunters are paying to kill up to 100 puffins at a time. Follow the link for photos of the gloating hunters and their “trophies”, but prepare yourself to be appalled.
Where, for god’s sake, is the sport in killing 100 puffins, not for food but simply for the “fun” of it? All life is precious, and no creature should die simply to enable men – it’s usually men, isn’t it? – to show off their prowess with weapons. There are times when people disgust me, and this is one of them.
What also disgusts me is that it’s legal to import puffin trophies into the UK. Surely we, collectively as a modern, environmentally-aware society, and individually as responsible citizens of a fragile planet, should be better than that.