Smile Politely

Stop the killing of geese

On May 12th, the Urbana Park District voted to kill 60 to 100 geese at Crystal Lake Park. This vote came under heavy opposition from the public, and for good reason. Geese massacres like this are always brutal, costly failures. Current, humane strategies are working, and new humane strategies will super-charge the reduction of the goose population. Local activists have proposed a proven plan to achieve UPD’s recreational goals at the park and throughout Champaign County. The bad news is that UPD has rejected this plan so far for no discernable reason. The good news is that the massacre has not happened yet, so we urge UPD to do the right thing and cancel an impending cycle of costly, ineffective violence before it is too late.

UPD’s plan will be a costly nightmare. New geese simply flock to the cleared area as soon as the massacre is over, taking advantage of the newly available land and food. Even UPD admits that this costly violence must be repeated. The geese are not just in Crystal Lake Park, they are scattered throughout Champaign County, which means there will be plenty of them to take residence in the park after each massacre. This year’s massacre will cost taxpayers $4,000 to $6,000, and this cost will be levied onto them over and over again despite the availability of better, cheaper strategies. Just look at Madison, Wisconsin, where taxpayers have been footing the bill for costly goose massacres annually for years.

Effective goose management strategies must have two components: they must keep the geese out of places where we do not want them, and set up safe foraging areas where they will prefer to live separately from humans. To the extent that UPD has implemented habitat modification and humane hazing, these strategies have worked. UPD’s own numbers show a reduction in the goose population over the last five years. Continued tall grass planting projects will enhance this trend in the coming years. Geese will prefer to live in a safe foraging area proposed by world-renowned wildlife management organization GeesePeace. Local volunteers have offered to move the geese — free of charge — to such a location, which allows for peaceful coexistence without any nuisances in the park. This plan has already worked for decades in cities like St. Louis, Missouri and Rockford, Illinois.

Even though more effective strategies are available, UPD is going through with costly, brutal violence. The geese are not being killed for health or ecological reasons. UPD’s complaints about the geese mostly revolve around the feces that geese leave behind. Scientifically, goose feces are not a hazard to human health. UPD has simply received complaints about things as trivial as wedding photo cancellations because of the geese. Is this a legitimate reason to massacre up to 100 sensitive, intelligent, socially complex creatures? Of course not.

The way the murders will be done is especially heinous. UPD has contracted the United States Department of Agriculture’s Division of Wildlife Services to come to Crystal Lake Park and kill the geese. USDA has a well-documented history of severe animal cruelty. In many cases, they have even been implicated in illegal violence against animals. If this massacre is anything like the countless ones that have preceded it, USDA will grab geese by the throat or wings, throw them into the back of a truck, gas them to death, and ship their corpses to a specialized processing plant where their meat can be prepared for distribution. Because geese can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes, their death will be long and excruciating. This is not an acceptable fate for beloved local wildlife, especially not over something as trivial as wedding photo cancellations or a desired boating deck. Furthermore, the massacre might be called a “charity harvest,” but most food banks will not accept wild goose meat, since it is usually laced with multiple toxins.

We might think of slaughter as a quick fix to our problems, but killing these geese will not solve our nuisance complaints. It will, however, perpetuate a toxic mindset. It is time for humans to begin acknowledging the objective truth: This earth does not belong to us. The failure to recognize this truth has led us to a climate catastrophe. It will continue to inflict unnecessary harm onto ourselves and other animals for as long as we turn a blind eye to the consequences of our destructive habits. If peaceful coexistence is possible, we have no right to resort to violence. We urge UPD to take a peaceful, rational, cost-effective approach to solving the annoyances in our park. Cancel the goose massacre now!

Top image by John Sailer.

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