Saturday, December 8, 2012

If Not Audubon, then Who (to Defend Canada Geese)?

Sometimes it seems the whole world is either hostile to or completely ignorant about Canada geese.

That statement would now appear to include the Audubon Society, a national bird conservation organization.

This article from Maryland yesterday would not be unusual in terms of complaint and vitriol about Canada geese -- with the exception of statements attributed to the Audubon Society.

According to the journalist, the Audubon Society "Would support a program.... where the geese would be rounded up, butchered and donated to the Maryland Food Bank."

Disturbed about this revelation, I called Mike Callahan who is President of the Maryland chapter of the Audubon Society and was quoted in the article.

Apparently, Mr. Callahan had not even read the article until my phone call.

However, after reading the piece, Callahan assured me that he had been misquoted and taken out of context.

"I spoke to the reporter a long time and discussed many things with her." Callahan told me. "I discussed non-lethal options and said that a roundup would only be appropriate as a last resort."

"Mr. Callahan, with all due respect, that is not how the article reads." I replied.  "It doesn't matter what you discussed with her. You might have discussed movies or reality TV.  What matters is what is actually published and what the people read. According to this article, Audubon supports a USDA roundup and slaughter of the geese as the desired first option.  That is immensely damaging not only to the 50 geese in this Maryland location, but geese all over the country.  USDA has rounded up and either sent to slaughter or gassing thousands of geese from New York City alone in the past few years and there is nothing humane about it."

"I had no idea USDA rounded up geese," Callahan responded defensively. "I thought it would be Fish and Wildlife."

"Where have you been over the past ten years?" I asked, incredulously.  "Geese have been rounded up by USDA and gassed or slaughtered from all over the country.  Surely, you read about the 370 geese gassed from Prospect Park in 2010.  That was reported in the New York Times and went national."

"I know nothing about that." answered Callahan -- though he was aware of flight 1549, the plane that landed in the Hudson after colliding with two Canada geese in January of 2010.

"Well, thousands of NYC resident geese have been slaughtered since that incident -- even though it involved migratory geese from Labrador, Canada, not local, resident geese." I said.  "The fact is, we could have killed every goose in the United States and it would not have prevented that near disaster."

"That is very interesting to know." Callahan replied, curiously.

Several times in the conversation, Callahan attempted to divert the topic to something else -- such as overpopulated deer or pet cats who kill millions of birds every year.

"Sir, I did not call you about elephants, deer or cats who kill birds.  I agree that responsible pet owners don't let their cats out to either decimate wildlife or be killed themselves by cars or coyotes. But, that is not the issue here.  Canada geese are and your quoted statement on what to do about them."

"I never said the geese should be slaughtered," Callahan asserted. "I considered roundup only as a last resort."

"Well, if that is the case, then you need to call the reporter and newspaper to demand correction and retraction.  The facts are the facts.  She reported Audubon as supporting a USDA cull. How will that go down with your boss?"  (Audubon takes no official position on USDA goose roundups.)

Callahan agreed to call the reporter to request correction.

There are many things which are immensely disturbing and frustrating in this particular incident.

First, there is the issue of lazy, misleading, and irresponsible reporting and editing on the part of the press.  (Unfortunately, that is nothing new.)

I personally believe Callahan when he claims he spoke to the journalist a long time and primarily advocated for non-lethal measures to manage goose population.  

But, none of that was in the published article.

Rather, what was quoted in the printed and online article was that Audubon "supported" a USDA cull of geese and that geese sometimes get hit by cars (thereby depicting the geese as both, nuisance and threat.)

When Callahan brought up the issue of car accidents to me, I reminded him that all sorts of animals get hit by cars -- including cats and dogs.  But, we don't advocate for rounding up and killing millions of animals to "save" them from car collisions. (Considering how slowly geese walk, any car collision would likely be the fault of the driver.)

Perhaps it was the intent of the journalist and newspaper to depict the geese in as negative a light as possible.   (It is, for example, difficult to perceive of 50 geese dispersed among a number of ponds as a truly "dense population" that needs to be "thinned."  Flock birds like geese often congregate in nature by the hundreds or even thousands.)

But, Callahan was apparently a willing participant in the deception and distortion and his apparent lack of knowledge on the actual issue led him to "support" something he actually knew nothing about -- USDA roundups of geese.

When I told Callahan that geese are typically crammed 4 to 6 in turkey crates and transported hundreds of miles to slaughter by USDA, he claimed to have no knowledge of methods or even that Wildlife Services conducted these roundups at all.

So, we basically have a situation of Audubon Society supporting something it knows zero about.

Obviously, this is the other thing hugely disturbing about the incident.

How does a national bird "conservation" organization know "nothing" about USDA goose roundups and slaughters conducted all over the country?

It seems laziness and irresponsibility are not just adjectives to be thrown at the press.

Canada geese are in fact betrayed by those who portend to be their advocates.

It leaves open the question of who then is left to defend and demand their protection? -- PCA


1 comment:

Mary Castrovilla said...

Well, well written,Patty!

Lazy and irresponsible - yep, that sms up the vast majority of the media...Alos, sensationalism apparently sells newspapers.

God help us