Monday, August 1, 2011

Reactive or Proactive?

Since USDA roundups and cullings of NYC Canada geese ended a couple of weeks ago, activity on goose Facebook pages has slowed to a near-stop.
That is unfortunate as government attentiveness to the geese doesn't stop with a date on the calendar (as was evident in the "Geese Removal Documents" posted and commented on here the other day).
A few weeks ago, a woman long involved with wildlife protective issues, remarked in an email that the animal protective movement is too often, "reactive" rather than proactive on the issues.
Truer words were never spoken.
If one has learned anything in reading the many articles about goose eradications occurring over the months and years, it is that people will "react" and often protest after a goose slaughter has occurred, but in fact, do little to try and prevent them from happening in the first place.
Last year, following media reports of 368 geese and goslings rounded up and gassed from Prospect Park, a Facebook page was immediately established to focus on the issue:
Within just a few weeks, more than 600 people signed on to the page!
But, over the months that followed, it became clear that it was a mere handful of these 600+ people who stayed focused, dedicated and attentive to the issue.
As matters turned out, that was apparently enough to stave off a repeated culling of geese at Prospect Park this year.
But, it certainly wasn't enough to prevent roundups and slaughters of more than 800 geese throughout the NYC metropolitan area this year.
One cannot help but wonder if the 600 people who originally signed up to the cause remained committed and faithful to it, would we have had a different result?
One tends to think so.
Government has to eventually respond to the will of the people and those they elect to represent them in Washington.
Evidence of that can be seen in the tremendous power and influence wielded by the "Tea Party" in Washington, DC and areas all around the country.
Ten years ago, the tea party barely existed.
But, unlike the tea party, the animal protective movement, (though certainly around a lot longer than a conservative, right winged political party) seems to lack the political will and drive for real change.
We "react" to those things we don't like. -- At least temporarily.
But, then a few weeks later, we move on to other matters.
That just doesn't work in terms of bringing about either changes in law or significant social change.
Federal, state and local officials are already aware of this seeming weakness in the animal advocacy movement and are usually well prepared for anticipated "negative, public reactions" to things like goose roundups.
This year, for example, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), issued a press release a few weeks before the NYC goose cullings announcing that the geese would "be sent to Pennsylvania for processing" (slaughter) and would then be "donated to food banks."
This seemed a transparent attempt to stave off criticisms of geese being gassed and then dumped in landfills, as they were in previous years.
Government agencies and elected officials also use euphemisms like goose "removals" and "euthanasia" to sugarcoat realities of what is happening to the geese and thus make the slaughters more palatable to the public and media.
Finally, most roundups of geese take place in early morning hours when there is usually not a whole lot of pedestrian traffic (or witnesses).  For any potential witnesses who happen by and are displeased with what they see, there is usually police presence to keep potential protestors at bay.
And so yes, government officials are well prepared for any potential and negative public "reactions" to goose roundups and culls.
What they aren't quite as prepared for are long, steady and committed campaigns to save the geese (or other animals).
A long and committed campaign is what they found at Prospect Park this year.
So much so, that there was a "Hands Around the Lake" event held in March at Prospect Park that attracted over 100 supporters and whose main purpose was to prevent another goose slaughter at the Brooklyn Park this year.
Additionally, just a few weeks before the scheduled goose cullings, activists from the Brooklyn community announced the formation of "Goosewatch," the purposes of which was to monitor Prospect Park 24/7.  According to Goosewatch organizer, David Karopkin, "We don't want to be asleep, if another roundup occurs to the geese in our park."
Such actions were not "reactive" as much as they were proactive.
And thus, there was no goose roundup at Prospect Park this year.
There also was no goose roundup (and never has been) at Central Park this year -- even though Central Park is closer to a major airport than many of the sites actually targeted by city agencies and the USDA.
It is not clear why Central Park has never been targeted for goose cullings as dozens of other city parks have been.
One suspects high volumes of pedestrian traffic even in the early morning hours, as well as close proximity to media outlets.
When asked if Central Park would be on hit list, USDA officials have usually been evasive,  using terms such as "unlikely" or "not to my knowledge."
But, the fact is, even according  to USDA reports, Central Park has not even been surveyed.
Other contributing factors to why Central Park is seemingly "off the table" for goose killings could be the park's own "goose management program" (i.e. modification of habitat and harassment), as well as the fact that CP is monitored fairly closely by bird lovers and animal advocates like myself.  Both the park leadership and the USDA are aware of that.
It is, in essence, a mystery why Central Park has never been the site of a goose roundup, culling or survey even though having more geese than some sites that have been targeted.
But, it is a mystery that we need to figure out in order to bring those "factors" that are within our ability to influence to the other areas of the city where geese have been victimized and needlessly and cruelly killed, year after year.
But, if the strategy is only to "react" temporarily to goose killings already occurred, then that could result next year in a repeated culling at Prospect Park, as well the start of cullings at Central Park.
As noted, government is well prepared for public or animal advocate "reaction."
What they are not prepared for is the public proation of commitment, perseverance and faithfulness to a cause.
Those things cannot simply be brushed off with euphemisms, PR tactics and political "spin." 
If the animal protection movement has any hope of actual changes in law, governmental policies or social consciousness, then it needs to become proactive, as opposed to simply whining or staging a "protest" any time an animal massacre occurs.
Such actions are "too little, too late."  They are not only scorned and laughed at by the powers that be, (as well as much of the public and media), they are easily dismissed.
They are met with preparedness and abilities to just blow off.
"Don't worry.  In another two weeks, this will all blow over."
Sadly, in terms of most animal activism, that is true.
Reaction is just a temporary state of mind.  -- PCA

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