Thursday, September 29, 2011

"The Gentle Sex"

If it has been frustrating communicating with the men of the USDA, it was infuriating talking to a woman yesterday.  I was barely able to keep composure and ultimately ended up yelling at the person at the other end of the telephone line. 
After the conversation, I questioned myself about it.
Am I harder on women than men?  Or, do I rather expect more from the members of my own sex?
Perhaps it is simply very difficult to reconcile the image of a woman shoving geese into gas chambers with that of the "gentle and nurturing" sex.
The conversation came about as result of my inquiring about a goose roundup that was to have occurred at Tuckerton Park, New Jersey within the last couple of weeks:
Since there was no follow-up to the newspaper article, I wanted to know if the roundup had actually taken place and if so, I had questions about it.
After leaving a couple of messages for the NJ branch of the "Wildlife Services" USDA, I finally received a call-back yesterday from a woman identifying herself as Nicole Rein of USDA field operations.
"Thank you for calling back, Ms. Rein.  I have some questions regarding the goose roundup at Tuckerton Park....."
According to Rein, The USDA rounded up about 60 of approximately 200 geese with  large, rocket-type nets.  Rein swears no drugs or sedatives were used because, "That is against the law during hunting season."  She does admit however, that USDA used baited corn to attract geese.
I asked when non-lethal alternatives were last used at the Ocean County park? 
"We have been working with the park for 4 years on non-lethal measures such as egg addling," Rein replied, casually.
"What about Border Collies?  When were they last used?"
"I don't know if they used dogs.  You have to ask the park that question."
"But, shouldn't YOU know the answer to that?" I asked.  "Isn't it the USDA's job to make sure all non-lethal measures have been exhausted before going in on a lethal cull?"
"It is not a requirement that they use dogs to chase geese," Rein answered dispassionately.
Rein then added that USDA got a call from the park in August complaining about the geese and asking for assistance.   (Apparently, the park is "staging" site for geese following molting.  I told Rein that most of the geese would have left before the winter and/or once the water freezes over.  She said that depended on the winter.)
I then asked Rein about the gassing. 
At first Rein seem surprised that I knew that the geese had been gassed.  (I had figured that out from an email her superior had written to a citizen.  The stuff about "methods approved by the AVMA."  That is agency spin for gassing.)
Rein claims to be a "field worker" who has witnessed goose gassings.
She claims the geese only take a "few minutes" to die.
"Exactly how many minutes are we talking about?" I asked.
Rein refused to be specific.
"Well, how long do you leave the geese in the chambers before taking them out?"
She would not be specific on that, either.
Over and over again, I kept trying to pin Rein down to a specific answer on how long the geese take to die in the gas chambers and/or how long they leave the geese in the death chambers before taking them out. (Like asking a chef how long to leave a cake in the oven before removing it.)
But, Rein kept refusing to answer the question directly.
Finally she did say however, they have to "wait a bit" before opening gas chambers because workers "can't ingest fumes."  (Emphasis supplied.)
"Can't ingest fumes?"
I was totally floored with that statement and could not reconcile this image with the claims by the USDA, the Mayor of New York City, the media and others that the geese "die humanely" in the gas chambers and "have nice dreams." (The latter is a Bloomberg quote.)
How "humane" can it be, if workers operating the chambers "have to wait" before opening them so as not to ingest any of the fumes?   Do we have to "wait" before opening ovens?
Rein totally denied USDA Public Affairs Director, Carol Bannerman's statement last year that geese "take anywhere from five minutes up to an hour to die."  She attributed that to "newspaper error" which is a typical USDA ploy.  -- Always blame the media.
(Bannerman had told me that was what her "workers" reported to her. She did not quote a newspaper article.)
Very angry at this point, I then accused Rein and the USDA of "not doing your homework" regarding the use and exhausting of non-lethal alternatives -- like dogs -- before rushing in with their baited corn and gas chambers.
"Do you ever consider that some people LIKE geese and want to keep them there?" I asked.
Rein didn't answer that.
Totally frustrated and by then, seething,  I asked Rein something I never ask USDA officials, but have often wondered about:
"How do you sleep at night?" 
Rein declined to answer that question as well. But, it was clear by that time that the conversation was over.
Later, I tried to figure out what had gotten me so angry to ask the question of how someone sleeps at night?
It was actually a combination of factors, most of them factual and some emotional.
USDA absolutely should have been able to answer the specific question of whether a Border Collie program had been utilized at the park to chase geese away and if it had failed, why had it failed?    (As written here numerous times, "Harassment" with Border Collies has been highly successful in Central Park in chasing out geese, much to my personal dismay.)
That USDA signed a killing contract with a park without investigating what non-lethal control methods had been used to "manage" goose population (and when), seems to show that the USDA claims of "promoting non-lethal management of geese over lethal culls" to be utterly false.  On the contrary, there appears to be a total lack of regard and consideration for "non-lethal control measures."  Indeed, they are not even mentioned in the latest USDA Goose Removal Report of 2011.
Another fact disturbing about this particular roundup is that the USDA used "baited corn" to win the trust of geese and to attract them.  There is just something so devious and disgusting about that from a purely ascetic and moral vantage point:  "Win them over and gain their trust to kill them."
Then there is the aspect that this roundup and killing occurred at a time the geese can fly and a time normally the USDA doesn't do lethal culls. (They used the baited corn and rocket-type nets to entrap the geese who could otherwise fly and escape.)
Obviously the geese are "safe" no time of the year.
But, probably the most upsetting part of the conversation was that having to do with the gassing of the geese and the fact this woman refused to give a truthful answer on how long it takes.
If Rein didn't really know and was unable to answer the question then why is she partaking in and defending these goose gassings?  She could neither verify that they are "quick or humane."
On the contrary, her statement that workers have to wait before opening the gas chambers because of fear of fume ingesting suggests anything but "humanness. "
I don't regret asking Rein how she slept at night under the circumstances.
Especially as a member of the "nurturing sex," (though in truth, the question should be asked of all humans, male and female who engage in this defense of barbarity and injustice, as well as participation in it).
"The gentle sex" we are not always. -- PCA

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