Born Free USA Blog
Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate
Sadistic thugs and the USDA are birds of a blood-stained feather
Last weekend more than 100 people convened at Prospect Park, Brooklyn, which had suddenly become devoid of Canada Geese. Those citizens had learned, and were justifiably outraged by, the fact that on July 8 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had rounded up some 400 trusting geese, bound them with plastic ties like so many criminals, and then forced them to breathe in lethal doses of carbon dioxide. All of this was done in secrecy, without consultation and without consideration of other means of reducing the goose population, or even if there was a justifiable need to do so.
And it was done to solve a problem it won't solve and that barely exists. I'll get to that in a moment, but first let's shift our attention to the western part of New Jersey, about a week after the Prospect Park massacre of Canada Geese. News broke that 18 Canada Geese were illegally beaten and shot to death. That action was also done in secrecy and without consultation.
The difference between the larger butchering and the smaller is that the former was legally, if surreptitiously, sanctioned. The latter was not, and was a crime.
To try to explain what is legal for the government is illegal for everyone else gets a bit tricky, and defies logic.
A plethora of "reasons" are given for legal culling of wildlife, but my own view, put simply, is that wildlife culling is typically based on an increasingly self-perpetuating need for wildlife culling agencies to justify their jobs and budgets.
They would disagree. They have found that the most effective rationale, the reason least likely to trigger opposition for lethal culling, is human safety. And this process of demonization of the Canada Goose, so necessary in promoting government wildlife culling agencies' dark and secret acts, was given a huge boost on January 15, 2009, when U.S. Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of Canada Geese over the Hudson River, between New York and New Jersey. The crew made a heroic landing on the river, saving the lives of all 115 on board. The whole thing was captured by numerous video-recording devices and shown repeatedly on newscasts around the world.
Canada Geese had brought down a passenger airplane, so obviously Canada Geese are, like shoe-bombs and lasers, a threat to airline safety.
"Lasers?" Yes, there have been hundreds of incidents of idiots on the ground illegally shining laser beams into airplane cockpits. The laser beams can impair the flight crew's eyesight and are a distraction that could lead to a crash. There have been hundreds of incidents of people shining laser beams into aircraft cockpits even though it is an evil act that puts everyone in the airplane at risk.
However, that undeniable risk simply does not justify either government agents or thugs going into stores that sell lasers and destroying a percentage of the stock (or even buying it and then destroying lasers), even though the laser destroyed might just possibly be the one that would otherwise bring down an airplane. It makes no statistical sense to take so Draconian a route in the name of airline safety.
And yet such action would reflect the "logic" of those government agents, or thugs, who think that by eradicating a tiny percentage of Canada Geese they are saving airplanes. In fact, the culls occur in summer when the geese shed all their primary flight feathers or are goslings who have yet to grow them, thus are easily rounded up and killed. But DNA analysis showed that the geese that were hit by Flight 1549 were migrants from distant Labrador. Had the government and thugs joined forces during the previous summer and killed every single goose in New Jersey, New York and all adjoining states, it would not have eliminated those geese from Labrador.
The risk is there, yes, but it is small, and the chance of any given individual or flock of geese bringing down an airplane is vanishingly small. The only way to absolutely eliminate it entirely is to totally exterminate the Canada Goose, and quite a few other bird species of similar size.
Although receiving far less news interest than the Hudson River landing, I remember another airplane crashing in New York State a moth later, much closer to where I live, near Toronto. On February 12 Colgan Air Flight 3407, a daily flight from Newark, New Jersey, crashed into a house near Buffalo, New York, killing 49 people on board and one on the ground.
Fatigue leading to pilot error was identified as a contributing factor.
That was the first fatal crash of a commercial flight in the U.S. since August, 2006, when Comair Flight 191 crashed while trying to take off from an airport near Lexington, Kentucky, also killing 49 people. One crew member survived.
Fatigue leading to controller error was a contributing factor in that tragedy. The single controller on duty had been given two jobs, both controlling aircraft and manning the radar. He accidentally directed the pilot of Flight 191 to a runway that was simply too short for that type of airplane to take off.
It was also in 2009 that the U.S. International Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), even before the Colgon crash in Buffalo, was warning airlines of the dangers of fatigue. Literally hundreds of airplanes have crashed because of errors stemming from fatigue, and the NTSB reported that there had been 250 airline accident deaths attributed to fatigue in the U.S. over the previous fifteen years. The crew members justifiably lauded for safely landing Flight 1549 on the Hudson were not fatigued; they were fresh, and sharp, and the results speak for themselves.
But fighting fatigue means cutting hours, or hiring extra staff, and that costs the air industry, and thus the consumer, money. How much easier to demonize geese, and allow the public to think "something is being done" while using tax, not consumer, dollars to pay the cost of keeping the cullers employed to do their secret work, and while inspiring sadistic thugs with a reason to do likewise.
To learn how you can live conflict-free with wildlife around your home, please visit our webpage that discusses simple things you can do to live peacefully with wild creatures. You can request a free copy of various brochures, or order packs of 25 for $6.
I firmly believe that with the sophistication of our current world's technology, it will only be a matter of time before airline collisions with birds will be completely avoidable. Savagely killing "flightless" birds to make the public think that the utmost care is being exerted in the name of safety just doesn't... fly!