Friday, October 28, 2011

"They Just Go To Sleep and Have Pleasant Dreams"

"They just go to sleep and have pleasant dreams."
The above was a quote from NYC Mayor Bloomberg commenting on the roundup and gassing of 368 Canada geese from Prospect Park last year.
But, the fact is that gas and decompression chambers were banned for use on dogs and cats in NYC almost 30 years ago because they were considered inhumane.
This occurred after media exposure of live puppies who had been discovered still alive after supposedly having been "euthanized" via decompression chambers used then by the ASPCA.
But, gas and decompression chambers are still legal in numerous other states to kill homeless dogs and cats.
Yesterday, the story of "Daniel" a beagle mix who survived an Alabama gas chamber hit media outlets all over the country:
While the story is (once again) presented by most of the press as a "positive, feel good" piece because the particular "miracle" dog has since been rescued and will presumably be adopted to a caring home, the bigger issue -- that of using gas chambers to "euthanize" animals -- is largely missed or glossed over.
The NBC coverage posted above is one of the few pieces to actually address the issue of gassing, at least to a degree.
No one really knows for sure how long it takes animals to die in gas chambers.
Estimates for Canada geese (who can hold breaths far longer than dogs or cats) range from "a few minutes" up to "as long as an hour."
According to the NBC story, animals at the Alabama pound are left in the gas chambers for 20 minutes, but apparently more than Daniel have survived the chambers.
Nicole Rein, spokesperson for the USDA told me last month that workers have to "wait a bit" before opening gas chambers in which geese have been killed because workers "can't be exposed to the fumes."  (CO2 is used to gas geese.)
All of this seems to contradict the Disneyworld statement by Bloomberg last year that the animals "just go to sleep and have pleasant dreams."
Nevertheless, despite the mayor's candy-coated euphemisms, many people (including myself) didn't buy the line last year about the geese going to sleep and having "pleasant dreams" and vigorously protested the goose roundups and gassings.
And so, this year 575 geese were rounded up from NYC parks and properties and sent almost 4 hours away to New Kingstown, Pennsylvania for slaughter.
Was that "better" or more "humane" than the goose gassings at JFK airport in previous years?
Not at all, when one considers the stress and terror to the geese crammed 5 to 6 to turkey crates in 80+ degree heat and trucked almost 400 miles away from the city.  One could in fact argue that the cruelty to animals was the same or even worse.
But, it was an important and symbolic victory for NYC to take an active and consistent stance against the gassings of any animals, as it is important for ALL states to take active stance and vigorously oppose the killing of animals via gas chambers, be they geese or pets.
But, certainly the "goal" in NYC was not to substitute one cruelty for another.
What the city and the USDA doesn't "get" is that we don't want our beautiful park geese killed at all.
And what our nation needs to seriously address in all these dilemmas is the issue of killing healthy and gentle animals for human convenience or due to human inertia and irresponsibility.
The truth is such killings (regardless of the method) are not "euthanasia" at all.  
That is in fact, what the "miracle dog," Daniel needs to symbolize: 
The folly and moral wrongness of killing for convenience and then labeling that, "euthanasia," "donations to food banks" or "pleasant dreams."   -- PCA

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