The word â€œsniperâ€ alludes to a hunter who had to be a great marksman in order to nail a snipe. Shooting a small but appetizing bird from a hidden location evolved over the centuries to mean a sort of “sharpshooter,” now more associated with a police (or alternatively an evil-minded) “sniper” from say the top of a building or hidden in the garden bushes when attempting to immobilize say a kidnapper, hostage-taker, human bomb, etc. So I would rather refer to my latest “controversial” or “heated” comment(er) as an on-line “sniper” of sorts. “Flying V” aka “Birds of a Feather,” whose comment(s) I let it in on the pitaw post because I felt like responding to them in greater detail. I could just have as easily zapped/ignored the comments, but it’s a slow Saturday afternoon, I am in a jet-lagged fog, and I thought it might be time for me to learn a little bit more about snipes…
My earlier post on pitaw was meant to be nothing more than a quick post on a delicious native delicacy which we obtained while on a trip to Bacolod a few weeks ago. It was described to me by locals as adobo style “rice field birds”. I instinctively compared them to agachonas or snipes because of the texture and taste, but I didn’t know that link for a fact, nor was I curious enough, to do anything but mention the association with agachonas or snipe. I did a quick review of my desk-side food reference books but hit a blank wall; I did a quick google and got nothing under pitaw or pitao or rice field birds that seemed informed enough to refer to. So I intentionally left the post as is, a light review of a wonderful tasting “rice field” bird…
Well, it seems at least one reader felt strongly about my eating pitaw, and left this comment, under the name “Birds of a Feather” and I quote:
“Why eat migratory birds when there’s an over supply of chickens?
To which I responded, and I quote:
“birds of a feather, have you seen how commercial chickens are raised, do you think that is any less offensive as eating a bird caught in the wild? Both are offensive to animals, but I am a carnivore. And I would argue plants have feelings too. And if I am aware an animal is endangered, I certainly try to avoid it to give it time to repopulate its ranks. But I eat fish caught in the wild, so why wouldn’t I eat fowl caught in the wild? Oh, and btw, I am curious where you discovered they are migratory, as I haven’t found much information on pitaw in my reference books or the net…”
My answer was par for the course Marketman, I would think… why should I be particularly concerned about eating birds if chickens are, in my opinion, probably even more cruelly treated? I have made my dietary choices and I am a carnivore that enjoys all types of other foods as well. I don’t go out of my way to torture an animal I am going to eat as food, but I recognize that I am eating a dead animal. I am most certainly not a vegetarian. And if I am aware that a food is endangered, or illegal to eat, I do try and steer clear of it. I was simply being logical and factual in that if I eat a fish caught in the open sea, I would feel no shame about eating a bird or deer or boar caught in the wild, and now that I think about it, when it is a food that lots of people have enjoyed for several generations, and not a strange one-off whim to munch on a living creature that I have somehow captured. And my final question in my response to that comment, is exactly that, a question asking birds of a feather where he/she got their information on pitaw as I hadn’t so readily found any…
Instead of commenting again as “birds of a feather,” I believe the same reader, based on the IP addresses, left a far more “irritated” comment, now by “Flying V” that prompted me to write this post, and I quote their comment in full, here:
“How arrogant and conceited you are! You can hide behind your money and education but you canâ€™t shed the FILIPINO in you.
This blog is nothing but and EGO trip for you. Flaunt your Narcism.
Forget about apologizing even when youâ€™re wrongâ€¦ thatâ€™s not the filipino way!
Identifiable as a Gallinago snipe by its cryptically-patterned black, brown, buff and white plumage, but is not easily distinguished from Swinhoeâ€™s and Pin-tailed Snipe in the field, though it is slightly larger.
Breeds mainly in HokkaidÅ in northern Japan, with smaller numbers on HonshÅ«, the eastern Russian mainland and, historically, Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands. The entire population migrates and spends the non-breeding season principally in eastern Australia, where it is the commonest Gallinago snipe. Recorded on migration in Taiwan, the Philippines and New Guinea, and is a rare straggler to New Zealand.
Breeding habitat in Asia: alpine moorland, grasslands, rough pasture, young tree plantations and cultivated areas. Non-breeding habitat in Australia: shallow freshwater wetlands of various kinds with bare mud or shallow water for feeding, with good nearby vegetation cover for shelter.
Lathamâ€™s Snipe is an omnivorous species that feeds on seeds and other plant material (mainly from species in families such as Cyperaceae, Poaceae, Juncaceae, Polygonaceae, Ranunculaceae and Fabaceae), and on invertebrates including insects (mainly flies and beetles), earthworms, spiders and occasionally molluscs, isopods and centipedes.
Display flights and drumming by the males. Nests on the ground, concealed in vegetation, with a clutch of four eggs.
Internationally, Lathamâ€™s Snipe is considered to be a species of Least Concern. In Australia it used to be hunted as a gamebird but is now completely protected.”
Geez. Get a grip “Flying V” and “Birds of a Feather” and “CA” and whatever other names you have used in the past. If I have traced this back reasonably well, you are a vegetarian, upset over my documenting the frying of live eels, possibly upset over my enjoying a bunch of beef bones with delicious bone marrow, and now unable to contain yourself over my having tried and enjoyed pitaw, a native delicacy, which I did not actually know were snipes, but certainly thought they tasted very similar. So thank you, I have actually learned a little something from you, but since you opened up the topic, let’s delve a tad deeper, shall we? But first, such vitriol from a sniper upset over snipe consumption… really now, how could this have suddenly led to arrogance, conceit, education, money and being unable to shed my “Filipino-ness” (duh, I don’t get it, I AM FILIPINO and proud of it). Ego? Narcissism? Apology? Huh? Were you having a bad day? In need of medication? Partially fried by your hair-dryer while you stood on a wet bathroom floor?
But first let me say, since you started flinging the mud, you could have just saved yourself a lot of retyping and paraphrasing and avoided the potential designation as a “plagiarist” (had you been publishing formally) by simply quoting your likely source for snipe information as wikipedia’s entry under “Latham’s Snipe“. It is certainly more information than I had, but then again, my original post wasn’t terribly scientific, and wasn’t intended to be. So while my first reaction was to sit up and learn from the scientific information in your comment, I would now take a wild guess that you aren’t any more of an ornithologist than I am. I remembered that I still had a bottle of the pitaw so I went to the pantry to retrieve it to review the picture in detail. I am not a bird-watcher, so I don’t really know for sure what variety (of many possible) snipe is in the bottle. Apparently, it could easily be Latham’s snipe (gallinago hadwickii) as you confidently assert, or a Pin-tailed snipe (gallinago stenura), Swinhoe’s snipe (gallinago megala) or several of other common snipe in this part of the world, according to several googled sources, including this, this and this one. Latham’s is also known as a Japanese snipe, while Swinhoe’s as a Chinese one, another is a Mongolian one, and all do indeed migrate south to Australia, some over Papua New Guinea, others Indonesia and presumably a few over the Philippines… but I still am not sure which particular snipe it is… and a quick google of Latham’s snipe and pitaw does not yield anything useful links. So maybe Flying V has better sources that definitively links Latham’s to pitaw, or perhaps is a real bird watcher/lover… And while I now acknowledge that Latham’s snipe and many of its cousins are migratory birds, NOT ALL snipe are necessarily migratory.
I did read some of the materials on snipe and what was most interesting to me is that they are NOT CONSIDERED ENDANGERED OR EVEN CLOSE TO IT. While it may upset you that I and many others in Bacolod would eat a MIGRATORY BIRD, let’s look at this with some appropriate perspective. First, they have been eating these birds for generations, and it is considered a delicacy, not some bizarre one-off thrill of consciously munching on a migratory bird. It is, in fact, delicious. And it is a protein source. Often caught in rice fields (I was told by locals) by farmers who paired it with their back-breaking-ly planted and tended rice crop. And to my knowledge, it is not illegal to eat it. And frankly, if I were in the farmer’s shoes and thought the snipe were eating my tended grains, then I would feel even less guilt about killing and eating them (think reason for scarecrows in cornfields and flapping fabric flags in rice fields). And if you are like many Filipinos dependent on protein from the sea, then eating a fish caught in the sea is just like eating a wild bird.
I realize you did not directly assert that the bird was endangered, and do say it is of “LEAST CONCERN”, but I am sure some readers may have felt that the crux of the issue was that I was eating or enjoying an endangered species… and this is simply not true, even though I admit I hadn’t the foggiest clue at the time that I ate it. In fact, here are some interesting quotes regarding Latham’s snipe from one of the internet sources that appears reasonably well documented:
“The numbers of Latham’s Snipe that migrate to Australia each year are suspected to have been stable over the past 30 years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).”
So even a suggestion or allusion to waning numbers is not supported by research.
“Latham’s Snipe could easily be confused with the Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura or with Swinhoe’s Snipe G. megala. All three species visit Australia and are very similar in size, shape, appearance, behaviour and habitat preferences. It is possible to distinguish Latham’s Snipe from the other two species, but identification requires careful assessment of a range of characters, including slight differences in size and structure, and separation is sometimes impossible (Higgins & Davies 1996).”
Pinpointing that pitaw is a Latham’s snipe without more scientific proof, a photo or actual specimen of pitaw, is something I cannot be certain of. And the experts agree there are lots of close relations, all of which appear to be migratory birds.
“The current major threat to the species appears to be the ongoing loss of habitat. The wetland habitats occupied by Latham’s Snipe are threatened by a variety of processes including drainage, diversion of water for storage or agriculture, development of land for urban or other purposes, and land management practices such as mowing of habitat during summer can render it unsuitable for several months (Frith et al. 1977; Garnett & Crowley 2000; Naarding 1981, 1985; Weston 1995). The habitat is also potentially threatened by vegetational replacement: on Cape York Peninsula, grasslands occupied by snipe on migration are being replaced by Broad-leaved Tea-tree Melaleuca viridiflora woodland, although the current rate of replacement (5% per decade) is not sufficient to threaten the species at present (Crowley & Garnett 1998; Garnett & Shephard 1997; Garnett & Crowley 2000).
There do not appear to be any other major threats to the species at present.”
“The long-term survival of Latham’s Snipe in Australia is dependent upon the maintenance of its wetland habitats (although predation may be an important factor in the survival of the species outside of Australia) (Naarding 1985, 1986; Weston 1998).”
It seems the current major threat is not a bunch of Ilonggos trapping pitaw, but the loss of habitat in their summer hideaway in eastern Australia. So if I were to draw my conclusions on limited data, I would say Australians could potentially be more to blame or are a greater threat to the species than adobo and those that eat it…
“No recovery, conservation or threat abatement plans have been prepared for this species.”
The last quote leads me into my final paragraphs on learning exactly what “LEAST CONCERN” designation is with respect to snipe… In the heirarchy of least at risk to extinct, LEAST CONCERN is the lowest category (above no or insufficient data), which means that the species has been reviewed by an internationally recognized group, but it was found to be of “LEAST CONCERN”. That doesn’t mean we can be flip about the species at all, but it also doesn’t mean that it is any where NEAR the endangered category. There are thousands of other species in this category, including white tailed deer in the Northeast United States, which they seasonally allow the hunting off, or controlled culls to keep the population at bay. That’s why I also do not flinch at the suggestion of eating venison.
And now that I have read through a lot more material on species designations, I have learned that some types of lapu-lapu or grouper have been rated “Vulnerable”, (closer to endangered) according to this link and other internet sources on Australian rock cods, etc., making certain types of lapu-lapu EVEN FAR FAR MORE VULNERABLE than the snipes we discussed above. So on the positive side, as a result of writing this post in response to Flying V, I will probably now pull back on purchasing certain vulnerable lapu-lapu to help rebuild natural stocks… but if I were to apply the rankings logically, then eating snipe shouldn’t be anywhere near as “shameful” as eating some types of lapu-lapu. Now as for eating those chickens of which there is an “over supply,” and which are raised in fairly despicable conditions (excluding the few percent that are free-range), that could be the subject of another post entirely.
And finally, if reading about folks eating animals really upsets you, then why bother to read this blog at all, why return to it several times over the past few months? Why try and hide under the guise of several different commenter names? Then take potshots at the author as though you know Marketman intimately enough to use such specific derogatory adjectives that seem a bit histrionic, at best? Why not spend your time reading less carnivorous posts/blogs and perhaps explore vegetarian ones with more zeal? This isn’t about me, this is about you having a problem with folks who don’t share your same beliefs with respect to the choices you make regarding your source of sustenance. And as I site a practical example in similar discussions, if you were over at our house for dinner, and you made those two comments above, I would have given you the same response I did here, with just a bit less overkill. And probably never invite you back. It is you, “Flying V” and “Birds of a Feather” that should be closer to being extinct on this blog… Now if only there were a few humongous animals that culled the human population selectively.