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PARAGRAPH 438_FEATHER MILLINERY.
Fortunately, serious as were the depredations of the poachers, their operations were interrupted before any of the species had been completely exterminated."
But the work of the evil genius of Laysan did not stop with the slaughter of 300,000 birds. Mr. Schlemmer introduced rabbits and guinea pigs; and these rapidly multiplying rodents now are threatening to consume every plant on the island. If the plants disappear, many of the insects will go with them; and this will mean the disappearance of the small insectivorous birds.
In February, 1909, President Roosevelt issued an executive order creating the Hawaiian Islands Reservation for Birds. In this are included Laysan and 12 other islands and reefs, some of which are inhabited by birds that are well worth preserving. By this act, we may feel that for the future the birds of Laysan and neighboring islets are secure from further attacks by the bloody-handed agents of the vain women who still insist upon wearing the wings and feathers of wild birds. TESTIMONY OF T. GILBERT PEARSON, SECRETARY NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF AUDU BON SOCIETIES.
Mr. Pearson was duly sworn by the chairman.
Mr. PEARSON. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I represent the National Association of Audubon Societies and 32 State cooperating societies. There are something over a hundred thousand people who have expressed their interest in the subject of the protection and preservation of wild birds by joining these societies, and I appear here in their interest with special reference to the birds found on the North American Continent. We are asking for an amendment to section 438 and suggest that it be changed to read as follows, at the end of it:
Provided, That the importation of plumage of American birds or of plumage indistinguishable from that of American birds, including aigrettes, crude or manufactured, is hereby prohibited, except for scientific purposes.
That amendment to paragraph 438 of the paragraph relating to feathers and downs, so as to prohibit the importation of plumage of American birds, including aigrettes, is recommended on the following grounds:
1. That a number of the species are now approaching extinction. 2. That the birds are of great economic value. 3. That the traffic in such plumage is illegal in many States.
4. That the plumage trade is destructive, barbarous, and unnecessary.
5. That the loss of revenue can readily be made up from other sources.
The demand for plumage of wild birds for millinery purposes during the past 20 years has grown to enormous proportions. In the effort to supply the market the woods, fields, and seacoasts of the United States have been combed systematically by plume hunters. Breeding colonies and rookeries in the Tropics from Australia to Venezuela and the most distant islands in the Pacific Ocean have been devastated by the emissaries of the plume trade. The traffic in the United States has caused the practical extinction of some of the most beautiful birds, including egrets, the least tern, and locally of several other species. Breeding colonies of certain sea birds have been practically annihilated along the coasts of New Jersey and Virginia. The egrets, formerly found in every State in the Union with half a dozen exceptions, are now restricted to a comparatively few isolated colonies in the South
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PARAGRAPH 438FEATHER MILLINERY. ern States and a few wandering individuals which occasionally stray northward to visit the haunts where they were formerly abundant.
The value of insectivorous and seed-eating native birds is too well known to need detailed exposition in this connection. The economic value of the egrets and other species of plume birds is not generally appreciated. Recent investigations in Florida by a representative of the National Association of Audobon Societies has shown that herons of several species during the breeding season are not only important scavengers, but destroy immense numbers of crayfish, cut-worms, and grasshoppers. Without going into detail the following table shows at a glance the character of the food of four species of young herons in Florida. The results are based on examination of the components of 50 meals of each species. The table shows that 50 snowy egrets consumed no less than 762 grasshoppers and 91 cutworms; that 50 little blue herons destroyed 1,900 grasshoppers, 149 cutworms, and 142 crayfish; and 50 Louisiana herons consumed no less than 2,876 grasshoppers. One stomach of a Louisiana heron was found to contain 200 grasshoppers.
Based on the examination made by O. E. Baynard, Orange Lake, Fla., of 50 meals of each of the following species, it was found that their food is as follows: Snowy egret, grasshoppers 762, cutworms 91, cray fish 29, miscellaneous 9; little blue heron, 1,900 grasshoppers, 149 cutworms, 142 cray fish, and 45 miscellaneous; Louisiana heron, 2,876 grasshoppers, 17 cutworms, 67 cray fish, and 14 miscellaneous; egrets, 176 cray fish, 61 suckers, and 297 frogs.
Both the egret and the snowy egret are destructive to field mice, and are therefore of pronounced economic value to the agricultural interests of the country, as shown in Bulletin No. 33 of the Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The trade in plumage of native birds is now illegal in a number of the States, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana, Missouri, Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, and other States. The trade in plumage of native birds is thus prohibited in such important millinery centers as Boston, New York, New Orleans, Cleveland, Cincinnati
, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. The Federal law (25 Stat. 1137) already prohibits interstate commerce in plumage shipped in violation of local laws. The United States should not permit the importation of goods which are contraband in some States. Their importation should be prohibited, as has already been done in the case of lottery tickets, opium, sealskins illegally captured, etc.
The death knell of any species of wild life is sounded when mankind begins to commercialize it. A number of species of North American birds are to-day on the verge of extinction because of the activities of the collectors working in the interests of the world's great millinery establishments. In collecting heron aigrettes the most barbarous cruelties are practiced. These long airy feathers are the nuptial adornments of the birds and are found only in the breeding season. To procure these feathers it is absolutely necessary to take the life of
PARAGRAPH 438_FEATHER MILLINERY.
the birds which produce them. This means that the young are left in the nests to die of starvation. Egrets once bred as far north as New Jersey and perhaps Long Island, but to-day they do not occur during the nesting season north of North Carolina. The agents of the National Association of Audubon Societies have been able to locate in recent years about 30 colonies of these birds in our southern swamps. In the summer of 1912 these few remaining rookeries contained in the aggregate a population of about 5,000 egrets. Thirty years ago there were millions of these birds in the United States. Because of the disappearance of egrets over large sections of the country in which they formerly occurred it is now necessary for the trade to secure these feathers from abroad and the same heartless war of extermination is to-day being carried on in South America and southern Asia. As long as we permit the importation of aigrettes we have but little assurance for saving the remnant of
egrets still found in this country, as it is impossible to distinguish in the manufactured product the feathers of these birds taken in different countries.
The actual revenue derived from the importation from plumage (including aigrettes for millinery purposes) is unknown, for the reason that no separate record is kept of the importation of plumage for millinery purposes and feathers and downs used for pillows, quilts, and other purposes. In the case of aigrettes probably 90 per cent of the goods are imported in the crude state at the low rate of duty based on appraisal at port of shipment. If figures were available, it is doubtful whether the appraised value of most aigrettes would exceed $15 or $20 an ounce, allowing a revenue of $3 or $4 per ounce. Assuming that the importations for any one year amounted to half a ton or a thousand pounds, the duty at $3 an ounce would be $48,000 and at $4 per ounce, $64,000. If this revenue is regarded as indispensable or so important as to necessitate the continuance of a traffic at once barbarous, useless, and destructive to the interests of our farmers, an equal source of revenue may be found in paragraph 289 in Schedule G, by imposing the same duty on game birds as on poultry.
To accomplish this, amend paragraph 289 to read: Poultry, live, three cents per pound; poultry and game birds, dead, five cents per pound.
If this amendment be adopted, paragraph 510 of the free list should be amended to read: Birds and land and water fowls alive for exhibition or propagation.
The present provision which imposes a duty of 5 cents a pound on poultry and allows game birds to be imported free is class legislation. You charge the poor man who eats chicken on Sunday, or when the preacher comes, 5 cents a pound, and yet the rich and mighty, who, after the theater, go into à café and enjoy a warm bird and a cold bottle, do not have to pay a cent of duty on their game. They come in free at the present time.
Mr. LONGWORTH. He pays a good deal on his cold bottle, though; at least, I have heard so.
PARAGRAPH 438_FEATHER MILLINERY.
Mr. PEARSON. I am glad to have the information from such an authoritative source.
It is the height of injustice in these days of high prices to require the poor man to pay a duty of 5 cents a pound on his poultry while the wealthy patron of the high-class restaurant and hotel can obtain his game birds free of duty. Under the present tariff exemptions the importation of game birds from Europe has increased enormously. As many as 25,000 birds are known to have been imported on a single vessel at New York. The records of the conservation commission of New York show that since the new law went into effect in 1911 prohibiting the sale of native game and requiring foreign game to be tagged, game birds to the number of 492,400 have been tagged. Most of these birds are pheasants, grouse, and ptarmigan, weighing from a pound to a pound and a half or 2 pounds. If the average is taken at a pound and a half the importations of New York alone would not about $37,000. As these figures represent the importations at New York alone for a period of two years, it would be safe to say that the importations for all ports in the United States may be safely placed at not less than $50,000.
Mr: Kirchin. If we put this tariff on these game birds, would that conserve our own game at home, or would it not act as a greater inducement and incentive to kill our own birds?
Mr. PEARSON. I do not believe that it would work out disadvantageously at the present time, because there has been great advancement made in State legislation. For instance, around the great centers of population such as Boston and New York City is where the great market for these things exist. The sale of native killed game has been made illegal and the game commissions of those States have enforced those laws.
Mr. HARRISON. Is it illegal in any of the Southern States now to have aigrette feathers ?
Mr. PEARSON. It is absolutely illegal to kill them in any Southern State.
Mr. HARRISON. Is it illegal only to kill them or to have them in your possession or sell these feathers ?
Mr. PEARSON. It is illegal to kill them or to sell their feathers in virtually all the States; but the burden of proof is on us to show that these birds were killed in the State. Under the new plumage law recently adopted in a number of States it is made illegal to sell the feathers regardless of where they come from.
Mr. HARRISON. Your society has a guard over each of these nesting colonies of egrets in the South? Mr. PEARSON. We guarded 15 colonies last year; yes.
Mr. HARRISON. Would the effect of the prohibition of importations of aigrettes be to prevent the illegal killing of egrets in our country?
Mr. PEARSON. I heard a man testify yesterday who is engaged in the feather business, and he said that the stopping of the bringing in of feathers from abroad would virtually kill the aigrette trade in this country.
Mr. HARRISON. Do you agree with that?
Mr. KITCHIN. Under this theory of the law in the different States that prohibits the selling of these American birds and if they are
PARAGRAPH 438_FEATHER MILLINERY.
permitted to be imported, if a man should have them in his possession and say, "I imported these and did not buy them here," when he did buy them here, how are you going to take care of that?
Mr. PEARSON. Yes; at the present time, the burden of proof is The CHAIRMAN. I did not grasp very fully the suggestion made with reference to the changing of the law. Does that cover ostrich plumes ?
Mr. PEARSON. No; not at all-to make it illegal to import American birds. A great many of our birds come from Central America and South America.
The CHAIRMAN. Of course, you recognize that ostriches are raised in this country now. Mr. PEARSON. Yes; thoroughly. We had a bulletin issued advis
; ing people to wear ostrich feathers. The CHAIRMAN. You have no objection to that? Mr. PEARSON. Not the slightest, because ostriches are
The CHAIRMAN. If we should adopt your suggestion, would that cover ostrich plumes ?
Mr. PEARSON. No; it would not.
Mr. PEARSON. “Provided that the importation of plumage of American birds”.
Mr. PALMER. What do you mean by “American birds”?
Mr. PEARSON. Birds that are found in a native state natural in America.
Mr. PALMER. Do you mean North and South and Central America ?
Mr. PEARSON. I had special reference to North America. I would be willing to change that to read “The United States."
The CHAIRMAN. Read it to us again.
Mr. PEARSON. “Provided, that the importation of plumage of American birds or of plumage indistinguishable from that of American birds, including aigrettes, crude or manufactured, is hereby prohibited except for scientific purposes."
The CHAIRMAN. I am in doubt, considering the fact that we have ostrich farms in this country, as to whether the language there used would prohibit the use of ostrich feathers.
Mr. PEARSON. I would be very glad to guard against that. We know of the ostrich farms in Arizona, in California, and at Jacksonville, and there is nothing cruel about the business. The birds are well cared for, and the plumes are simply clipped off with shears.
Mr. PALMER. That language would not keep out these beautiful birds which the previous witness discussed ?
Mr. PEARSON. Some of them it would not keep out. I am asking for half a loaf, and he is asking for the loaf. I would like to have the loaf.
Mr. PALMER. You would like to prohibit all these birds, no matter where they come from?
Mr. PEARSON. I would; yes, sir.
Mr. KITCHIN. Is your language broad enough to cover the plumage on hats already made ?
Mr. PEARSON. It would not make any difference under what condition they came in. In fact, I understand there is comparatively