I have known environmental gadfly Ted Williams for well over 30 years, since Gray’s Sporting Journal was based in Brookline Mass. Ted was and is tough, sardonic, and not one to mince words– he was has never been inclined to cut anybody any slack, even friends. I am by no means in agreement with him on every issue; for instance, like most eastern journalists he has never quite comprehended the virtues of public land ranching, only the vices. But so what? Not only is he quite capable of reducing friends as well as enemies to sputtering incoherence; I think he enjoys it, and I suspect arguing with him will either hone or demolish your own arguments. Some have called this lifelong hunter of woodcock and ducks (and, last we talked about such things, New England Republican) an anti- hunter because he follows no party line; one friend refers to him as a Bolshevik. By party line standards I am just as bad, albeit on different issues. If you feel he is wrong, you damn well better have your facts researched; Ted was and is fearless, well- researched, blunt, funny, and honest. He is staunchly “green” but never politically correct.
More than ten years ago, Audubon magazine fired the man who may have been the best nature editor of our generation, the audacious and utterly unconventional Les Line (I have blogged on him– hit archives & search) . They wanted trendy urban stories, not nature writing. At the time I said there was no longer any reason to read the magazine. But I was wrong; Ted still wrote for them, and though I never re- subscribed, I often bought the magazine on the stands and read his column. Even when he was irritating, I knew I could trust him.
Recently, he wrote a piece for a Florida newspaper advocating culling the immensely destructive feral cat population to preserve songbirds (the numbers of lost birds every year suggested by more than one study runs into the billions, and can be found on Google). A couple of cyber groups immediately put up Internet petitions to have the monster fired .
At which point Audubon, unbelievably, caved in to the Internet flash mob of ecological illiterates (including a mob of sentimental cat loonies who call themselves Alley Cat Allies– I will NOT link), and fired him, cravenly reducing his 33 years of writing for them, mostly on the masthead, to “freelance writer and occasional contributor”, and ignoring every conservation study in the past decade.
Audubon– the- mag has now achieved the remarkable feat of firing both the best nature editor of our time and our most independent conservation columnist. If you are so inclined, go to their website and tell them just how inconsequential and worthless they have become.
Update: some hard numbers from Patrick Burns, sent to Audubon:
“Please count me as one of those extremely disappointed in the National Audubon Society’s treatment of Ted Williams in response to a bunch of squalling feral cat advocates who have positively declared war on America’s birds.
Here are the facts when it comes to feral cats:
· Feral cats kill over 2,500 birds a MINUTE in the U.S. — over 1.5 billion a year.
· Feral cats are not pets. They cannot be rehomed.
· Feral cat colonies are not “No Kill” — they are the planned, subsidized, and systematic mass killing of native wildlife.
Let’s change this losing game. It’s time to trap and euthanize… and Audubon should stand behind it.
The only reason to read Audubon magazine is Ted William’s column…”
David Petersen writes:
” As I read the piece, he was calling for mercy to the murderous hordes of cat-killing feral cats by replacing the dominant neutering program with a far more humane euthanasia program. While Mr. Williams clearly did not overtly suggest that you and I start poisoning cats, as the cat crazies claim, he has nonetheless subsequently apologized for any lack of clarity in what he did say, as you can see for yourself via
“Audubon is North America’s leading voice on behalf of birds. Cats, feral and otherwise, are a, or the, leading cause of the shameless mass slaughter of birds. How many feral cat crazies are Audubon supporters?”
(And, like me– and how many others?– he remembers Les Line; he ” …was never able to find it in myself to forgive Audubon for dumping Les Line, who, in many readers’ minds, was Audubon Magazine.”)