The Eudora Masons are calling it European, but some local animal lovers are calling it a slaughter.
It's an unethical, grotesque form of hunting, said Pat Sinclair, an animal lover who came across a flier for the Eudora Masonic Lodge's "European Pheasant Hunt," which takes place today in Delia. The event, which costs $80 per shooter, is a fund-raiser for the lodge.
"This is a slaughter, not a hunt and these are the kind of people that give hunting a bad name," Sinclair said. "These are people only concerned with killing."
At the hunt, pen-raised birds will be thrown from a tower. Hunters will shoot them from the ground. Opponents say the practice lacks elements that make hunting a sport: tracking, strategy and skill. Furthermore, the birds aren't given fair chance to escape. The pheasants, critics say, are hoisted to their deaths.
Clint Riley, Kansas Wildlife and Parks attorney, said there was nothing illegal about it, as far as he knew. Cokeley Farms Hunt Preserve, where the shooting will occur, is a private, licensed hunting establishment. Any questions of wrongdoing are purely ethical, Riley said.
"So what?" said Tim Ross, a Mason and the event organizer, responding to the critics' complaints.
"Abortion is unethical but it is also legal, as is what we are all doing," Ross said Saturday at the hunt.
Lawrence veterinarian Christi Jarrett said she also was appalled by the flier, which says spectators are "welcomed/expected to watch/howl/laugh as some pheasants hit the ground and others fly away."
Jarrett said she's not anti-hunting, but she said true hunting should include fair play between hunter and bird.
"I'm opposed to calling it hunting when you have a circle of hunters and you throw five birds per person from a tower to shoot them," Jarrett said. "My feeling is that most good hunters would be appalled at this."
John Wenzle, a hunter from Easton, said most mature hunters prefer hunting with a dog, enjoying nature and tracking the bird with the animal's help. But he said he finds nothing unethical about European hunting. Pheasants, he said, are simply another product of nature produced for human consumption.
Killing pheasants as they are released from a tower is no different from slaughtering cows or fishing a stocked lake.
Will Cokeley, owner of Cokeley Farms, agreed.
"It's no more unethical than hunting is in general," Cokeley said.
The pheasants are raised on Cokeley's farm for the purpose of hunting. Furthermore, he said, in a European hunt, pheasants have a 25 percent chance of escape. Birds shot will likely be eaten. The Masons' flier said some would be donated to a Eudora nursing home.
European hunting has been around for decades and the Masonic Lodge hunt is no different from previous ones, Cokeley said.
But Sinclair said the pheasant hunt sounds more like a video game or target-shooting using live animals. She said she was particularly offended that children are encouraged to attend.
"I'm concerned about what this says about us as people, what we're showing kids as an example, and what people think is fun," Sinclair said.
--Staff writer Amber Stuever can reached at 832-7165.