By way of professional disclosure, I have long considered Ted Williams a friend, as well as a mentor, an exemplar, and an ally in the Good Fight for wild nature in America. That said ...
For anyone who has followed the literate outdoor media across the past three decades or so, the name Ted Williams evokes more than a famous baseball player. It identifies arguably the finest and most effective wildlife investigative reporter and journalist America has ever known. Aside from being a long-time contributor and "Incite" columnist for the prestigious Audubon magazine, Williams writes a conservation column for Fly Rod and Reel magazine, is the author of several wonderful books, blogs courageously on behalf of wildlife and wildlands conservation, and his powerful byline seems at times ubiquitous in the arena of sniffing out and exposing those sour individuals and entities who would harm our nation's proud legacy of wildlife conservation, wildlife management, and field ethics among sportsmen and women.
Now all of that is at risk, thanks to a relative handful of reactive feral Kat Krazies and some as-yet-unnamed knee-buckling Bigshot coward lurking somewhere in the bowels of the National Audubon Society.
In short, at the suggestion of Audubon, Mr. Williams, quite recently, wrote a short piece for the Orlando Sentinel detailing the horrific annual slaughter of songbirds in North America by cats, both well-fed and alley variety. A focus of Ted's article was on the inhumanity and ineffectiveness of the currently dominant method of public feral cat control, which involves trapping, neutering, and release back onto the streets to continue killing birds and other wildlife. Rather than this failed and inhumane program, Ted pointed out, it would be both more effective and more merciful to these millions of starving homeless cats, to trap and euthanize them. Ted went on to point out the ready availability of an inexpensive, effective and human cat-specific drug that authorities could be using for cat euthanasia, rather than a less effective concoction used in the past. From that, the Kat Krazies eagerly and viciously misinterpreted that Williams' was advocating that you and I should go out and start poisoning kitties in the park, which he had not said at all. Read for yourself the entire original Orlando Sentinel article in question, as well as Ted Williams' subsequent clarifications re: what he did and did not actually say, plus a public apology for any misunderstanding.
Nonetheless, when the KK's stormed Audubon with emails and calls demanding that Williams' be excommunicated for his alleged sin of favoring wild songbirds over murderous cats ... the Audobon Society (not necessarily the magazine staff) did exactly that: They fired Ted Williams, their most popular writer ever. In point of fact, as a freelancer you aren't a salaried employee and thus can't be "fired" per se. But you can be stripped from the masthead as a contributor and no longer be published in those pages.
But this is getting overly long. For more background on this embarrassing debacle (for Audubon, that is), I refer to you the blog comments of another leading sporting and conservation writer of our time, Stephen Bodio. Meanwhile, here is the letter I sent to Audubon, slightly redacted for length:
Dear Mr. Ringer:
I am writing in hopes that you can help undo this stupid knee-jerk injustice before the growing media attention damages the credibility of Audubon more than it already has. No, it's not Ted Williams who is damaging your public image, but rather Audubon's inane if not insane overreaction to the feral cat debacle.
There was nothing inflammatory in what Mr. Williams wrote, at least not to a sane and clear-minded reader. As I read the piece, he was calling for mercy to the murderous hordes of bird-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.
Audubon is North America's leading voice on behalf of birds. Cats, feral and otherwise, comprise the leading cause of the shameless mass slaughter of birds. How many feral cat crazies are Audubon supporters? A sensible response would have been to ask Mr. Williams to offer clarifications to what he did and did not say ... and let it go at that. Ted has apologized publicly for any misunderstanding he may have caused. It's not too late to stand behind the finest and most popular writer you've ever had, and the best-known and simply best outdoor writer in American today.
Long ago, Teddy Roosevelt warned us to beware of the "lunatic fringe" in all of public and politic life. However, he expressed his faith that the sane majority of Americans would always, in the end, act to keep that fringe where it belongs, on the fringe. I believe I know how Teddy would feel about this current situation. Please do the sane thing, the right thing, and keep America's finest wildlife investigative reporter prominently on your masthead and in your pages.
After reading the Orlando Sentinel article yourself, if you too would like to tell Audubon how you feel about the situation, send your emails to David Ringer (leader of Audubon's media relations and social media efforts), at email@example.com, and copy firstname.lastname@example.org.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more