IN DEFENSE OF SUMMERTIME GEESE
by Yolanda A. Reid
Some days, as summer approaches, and the season for geese grows near, I begin to cringe. About five summers ago, I read online that hundreds of geese would be slaughtered for meat in New York City. Actually, the killing--also referred to as culling--began in 2005. The reason is that on Long Island, in recent years, the local geese are regarded as pests. Proponents of the plan argue that the geese are public nuisances or health and aviation safety risks. Each summer, they molt in June and July, sloughing off feathers and excessive goose droppings; their honks, as loud as a referee's bullhorn, disturb local residents.
Years ago, my mother and I trudged through the marsh grasses of a lake, in a park near our neighborhood. In that habitat, snow-white geese flapped their enormous wings; on occasion, a goose honked at us. Falling was an ever-present hazard, so we stepped daintily. At each step, we had to decide between patches of soggy sodden earth--mud really, interspersed with wet, dewy shoots of grass--and the brown round discs of poop.
Despite that experience of an outdoor version of Twister--a game we played often when I was a teen, in our living room--I never once thought, They should be killed.
Yet because of those brown discs, the residents of Manhasset Hills and other Long Island towns wanted to annihilate the geese. As a result, in 2016 alone, a total of approximately 500 geese were slaughtered or re-located from various New York City parks. Thus far, geese have been culled in towns such as Brightwaters, West Babylon, and others.
As a child, I owned a couple of birds as pets--parrakeets and a parrot. So when I read that New York City would be killing Canada geese in a wanton effort to control or reduce the goose population, I was deeply saddened. Aghast, really.
And I wonder, Why is killing the only solution? The first solution? Have we not evolved to a higher spiritual and ethical plane than to kill defenseless birds? Not only that, how safe is that meat for human consumption, anyway? In addition, most biological experts state that killing is not effective. Each year, the geese re-populate. Furthermore, in twenty years, will we declare Canada geese as near-extinct and backpedal the culling process?
As a society that has invented rockets, spaceships, computers, hybrid electric cars, solar panels, and robots, we should aim to preserve life. And, let's face it, the geese were here first. The honking is a defense mechanism to frighten potential predators. Aside from foraging for food, the mother goose's first job is to protect her goslings, or baby geese. As she sees it, humans are intruding into her habitat.
Historians may look back on the culling process and conclude that human psychological pathology inspired it. Avicide, the slaughter of birds, reveals us as bloodthirsty, cruel and inhumane. According to http://www.goosewatchnyc.com:
"Every summer, during the molting period when they cannot fly and are raising their young, adult geese and their terrified goslings are rounded up, roughly handled while shoved into turkey crates, and forced to endure stifling hot car or truck rides while exposed to high summer temperatures, taken to slaughterhouses or gas chambers to be killed.
All together, USDA Wildlife Services agents have killed more than 50,000 birds and other animals in New York City since 2005."
So my solution is for New York City to build a big glass greenhouse to corral the pesky geese. The greenhouse would be called "The Goosesphere": it would house the geese during molting season and, if necessary, year-round. Both citywide and Long Island geese would be re-located to The Goosesphere, which would be situated either in the Wildlife Refuge, or within each affected park. Taxpayer money would then no longer be wasted in the culling process.
One morning, last winter, I looked up at the grey skies in my neighborhood, to see a gaggle of twenty or thirty geese as they flew in V-formation, due east. They honked incessantly as they flew overhead. Many times, I've seen them in the park, floating in its freshwater lake. Usually, their long black necks resemble curved flutes; their torsos, heathery clumps of silver-grey feathers. But that morning, while flying, the geese's wings and necks stretched outward, straight, bearing forward, as if in an Audubon painting.
As I watched the geese, a feeling of contentment settled in me, that I was witnessing Nature in a moment of astounding beauty.
A longtime bird enthusiast, Yolanda A. Reid is the author of two novels and a debut collection of poems, Sonnets to the Japim Bird. http://www.yreidbooks.blogspot.com