Queen Under Fire for Killing Bird

L O N D O N, Nov. 20, 2000 -- Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has delivered a silent rebuke to animal rights activists who objected to her killing a wounded game bird with her bare hands.

A day after she was criticized for wringing the neck of a pheasant that had been peppered with shot, the queen went to church on Sunday wearing pheasant feathers in her hat.

The wounded pheasant had been retrieved by one of the queen’s dogs during a shooting trip at her estate at Sandringham in Norfolk, eastern England, on Saturday.

The League Against Cruel Sports was quick to accuse the queen of promoting cruelty by taking part in pheasant shoots.

By tradition, the queen does not speak out in response to media criticism, but royal aides made it clear that her feather-trimmed hat was a pointed gesture.

“The queen would never enter into a public debate about whether she should be involved in country sports, but by displaying the feathers she has made her feelings plain without saying anything,” a royal aide said.

Press Has Field Day

Bearing pictures of the Queen wringing the neck of a dying pheasant, the British press have had a field day covering the infamous incident. The Sunday Mirror ran the picture and a piece under the headline, “The Killer Queen.”

“She killed the helpless creature with her bare hands while watching Prince Philip and guests blasting birds from the sky,” the Mirror’s tabloid stablemate, the Sunday People, said in its report.

The queen does not shoot herself, but takes a keen interest in country sports.

Experts Defend Queen

Shooting experts defended the Queen’s action as merciful, saying neck-wringing was the fastest and most humane way to end the bird’s agony.

“All she did was put a bird out of its misery after it had been shot. She can’t see what the fuss is about,” a royal aide told the Daily Express today.

But campaigners seized on the incident to attack the royal family’s fondness for hunting animals.

“Some people will say that she put the bird out of its misery — but who put the bird in misery in the first place?” asked Penny Little of Protect Our Wild Animals.

“I don’t think the Queen should be a part of something which most people find absolutely disgusting,” Little told the Sunday Mirror.

“There is always the risk that birds will not be killed cleanly — as this incident proves,” Steve Rackett, spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, told the Sunday People.

With the Labour government intent on banning fox-hunting, the question of royal support for blood sports has become highly sensitive.

Royal heir Prince Charles has come under fire from animal rights groups for taking his son, Prince William, fox-hunting.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.