Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Small but Important Victory

The Prospect Park Geese are Saved!

The news reports tell the story of GooseWatch's success pretty well:

"Between 700 and 800 Canada geese are expected to be rounded up from parks in and around New York City and killed in the next several weeks, the city Departament of Environmental Protection said Thursday afternoon.The city will not say which parks, however, or when.But Prospect Park, currently home to about two dozen geese and a round-the-clock “goose watch” patrol aimed at thwarting a repeat of last year’s extermination, is not one of them.

“One of the U.S.D.A.’s priorities is to reduce the stress on the animals and make the operation as stress-free as possible,” said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city environmental protection department. “And so the locations are not given out in advance.”Referring to threats from animal-rights advocates to interfere with the roundup, Mr. Sklerov said the authorities “don’t want lots of people looking around or gathering.

"Friends of Animals announced last week that the organizers of the Prospect Park goose watch had “amassed a list of nearly 100 supporters who are on call to receive a mass text message and phone call at any hour of the night if the U.S.D.A. is spotted by stakeout patrollers and who are able to come to the park immediately to defend the geese.

"The goose watch, the group noted, is “committed to protecting the geese of Prospect Park, New York City and beyond.” Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals, said that at Prospect Park, the goose watch had been prepared to storm the scene of a roundup with whistles and other noisemakers to disperse the geese so that they could not be captured."

"The announcement comes on the eve of a promised “goose watch” vigil to prevent another extermination this summer. Federal officials typically slaughter geese in mid- to late June after the birds molt and cannot fly away from workers who corral them into pens before gassing them with fatal doses of carbon monoxide."

"Anticipating that the USDA might come back this year for the park’s remaining 26 geese before the expiration of the city’s kill contract with the agency on June 30, one group of geese enthusiasts even started a late-night “Goose Watch” to keep an eye on the geese in the park’s off house."

"A group of people at Prospect Park, where about 400 geese were legendarily killed last summer, have actually set up a round-the-clock "goose watch" patrol aimed at thwarting a repeat of last year’s extermination."

"David Karopkin, who organized the GooseWatch vigils, said he was relieved to hear that Prospect Park's geese were safe. "It brings me great joy to know that those geese will be safe," said the 26-year-old Ditmas Park resident.

"But the battle, he said, wasn't over and plans were already under way to do similar night watches at some of the Queens locations. "Now we can focus our attention elsewhere" he said. "We're not going to just sit back while 800 geese get rounded up for no reason."


I can't help but wonder if the protest organized by Cathryn Swan and Johanna Clearfield had something to with the timing of the announcement.

Outside City Hall, June 23, 2011

The press following the event was favorable:

We have another protest/rally for 6pm - 8pm this Thursday, June 30, outside Mayor Bloomberg's mansion on 79th Street between 5th and Madison Avenues. This is the day the citys contract is due to expire with the USDA, a renewal would be a theft of taxpayer dollars.

If it's true that they are not coming back to Prospect Park this summer, this is definately ground breaking, and also a huge relief. This is great news for 26 geese, including a young gosling. But I ache for the other 800 that will be rounded up mercilessly, and for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

It's possible that we really did reach an "acceptable" number in Prospect Park, and the USDA has already tried to take credit a successful 2010 massacre, those who supported harrasment measures might defend these as being a critical factor, but the bottom line is that GooseWatch was acknowledged as being a deterrant to coming to Prospect Park, as we suspected it might be. The government doesn't want concerned citizens standing around watching as they carry out such brutality (and criminality).

There is no doubt in my mind no doubt in my mind the decision not to come back to Prospect Park could not and would not have happened without the collective efforts of everyone involved in protecting the geese. I'm very proud of the role GooseWatch played, and so grateful for everyone that contributed to the effort. I am so grateful for all the members in our group and all of the roles that everyone played. There is no way any of us can do this alone. A community and collaborative effort is what is needed, and that is exactly what we are doing.

We still have so much work ahead of us if we are going to stop the senseless goose round-ups, across NYC and elsewhere, but I think we showed what a group of local concerned citizens can accomplish. I'm very proud to be working with a group very passionate, intellegent, brave, diverse and capable activists. It's inspiring.

The Goosewatch idea was just something I thought might be within our reach, but I didn't even know whether it was possible, and I knew I couldn't do it alone. At first I wasn't sure press attention would be a good idea all, we had to give away many details of our actions, and considering the resources of the city and federal governments, I figured they'd find a way around us. Yet out of the media attention, people have been reaching out to us from within and outside the Prospect Park community to join the effort, and at least to some extent we scared the death squad away.

Even if Prospect Park is safe (despite the city announcement that Prospect Park will be spared, we can't take such for granted to be absolute). Meanwhile, there are two dozen other sites on the list where geese will probably be taken from. We can't save all the geese, but we will be vigilant in trying to document a NYC round up at some of these sites, where we know there are vulnerable geese families. And we certainly aren't taking our eyes off Prospect Park, we will still be there every morning to make sure the geese are well looked after.

I really love the part where the guy says they “'don’t want lots of people looking around or gathering,' because it's stressful on the birds, because you know, they are going so far out of their way to make sure the round ups and slaughters are as gentle as possible." Check out my post on my trip to Randall's Island, and please let me know if you buy this: “'One of the U.S.D.A.’s priorities is to reduce the stress on the animals and make the operation as stress-free as possible,' said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city environmental protection department." We know that the 2011 round ups will be heartless and brutal, and it's unnerving.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

GooseWatch Update

This is it... the home stretch. Supposedly the USDA Wildlife Services has begun or will imminently begin rounding up geese around New York City parks this week. They won't confirm or deny.

22 Canada Geese in Prospect Park as of this morning.

Meanwhile, GooseWatch is in full effect. We are holding down the fort at Prospect Park. We have been and will be out there every night for as long as we need to be. We're a little sleep deprived. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the effort.

GooseWatch's goal is simply to be awake and present and if nothing else bear witness to what is going to be done under the cover of darkness when the park is closed to the public, while we were asleep a year ago. We are still looking for people who can assist and want to be involved.

People have expressed concerns, but I assure that the plans for our activities are going to be conducted legally. It's possible we will not be able to save the geese, but we will try. One need not be concerned about getting arrested unless that person desires to break the law, which will not be necessary for most participants. Perhaps some may choose to break the law in some way, hopefully if it means being able to save the geese, a) I would morally support such actions if no person was hurt and geese were saved as a result, b) I don't see how I could stop them.

Please let me know if you are interested in participating and would like more details about the stake out, or you can help out in a lot of other ways:

-- Join the Stake Out Team. We have formed a group to stake out the park through the night. The USDA is likely to come during the next 10 days, through June 30, sometime between 12am and 6am. We'll be there every night, but we need more people. We especially need people who can come after 4am. Requires standing outside the park and keep watch of the lake & geese using binoculars. It's fun, but tiring (especially if like many of us you have a day job). Please let me know if you would like more info.

-- Come to the park for a midnight protest when the USDA arrives. When the USDA comes we have 100 people on speed dial that want to be called. Most live within 10 minutes from the park. When we spot the USDA, we will send out a message by phone and email with instructions for where everyone should meet. It will not be a test. Please send your phone number if you want to be called.

The contact email is

Here are some other ways you can help:

-- SIGN THIS PETITION. Let Mayor Bloomberg know you are against needless goose slaughter.

-- Print the flier below and help put them up around the neighborhood shops.

-- PROTEST/FLYER TO SAVE OUR CANADA GEESE - THURSDAY, JUNE 23RD 12:30-2:30 P.M. OUTSIDE CITY HALL. Come Flyer/Protest with us to SAVE CANADA GEESE Bring signs, pictures. We will provide flyers. LOCATION: Broadway at Murray Street (Across from 250 Broadway at Entrance to City Hall) -- Contact NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and make clear your opposition to the slaughter of the geese and their babies in Prospect Park and the rest of New York City.

-- Call 311 and lodge a "Complaint" with the mayor's office. Tell the operator you want to “leave a comment for the Mayor”; then ask Mayor Bloomberg to implement polices that respect, tolerate, and promote peaceful co-existence with our urban wildlife, and to END the goose-killing contact with the USDA. Do identify yourself as a New York City resident. Your comments will be recorded compiled and sent to the Mayor.

-- In addition to calling 311 to register a comment to Mayor Bloomberg asking him to cancel the slaughter contact for NYC's Canada Geese for this year and forever, you can also call 212.788.3000. This is the direct number for the Mayor's Office at City Hall. Make sure the person answering the phone takes down your name and where you live. Be clear and polite in communicating your outrage over this wildlife slaughter and be sure to state your wish for an END to these kind of kill contracts with the USDA. Those calling from outside New York City, dial 212-NEW-YORK and follow the same directions above.

-- New York City Residents can also call their NYC Council Member representative and urge them to press the Mayor to protect the Canada geese and all our urban wildlife. All citizens can contact their elected representatives at every level, and let them know you care what happens to the geese.

-- Request to join the Facebook group "For the love of the geese in Prospect Park"

-- Visit a park near you where there are geese, and see how they are doing. There might be cute goslings there this time of year.

A brief word about the need for this effort. The USDA is looking for 1,000 birds to kill in NYC this summer, and use the meat to feed the needy. Please visit the website Prospect Park Quiet Skies, read FAQ #15. Also, the USDA report of 2010 round ups show that many sites with less than 20 geese were hit by the USDA killers. Some of these sites were completely cleared out. We hope not, but sincerely do not rule out the likelihood that USDA is coming back to PP.

It still makes absolutely no sense to me why the contract with the USDA is being carried out. There are sound arguments to be presented against every single claims I have heard for why we need to kill geese. The burden of proof seems to rest on the advocates of geese to show that there are better solutions, rather than on the government to demonstrate that there are no other solutions. This may be a point of bitter contention, but in light of the many alternative options to slaughter, I do not see how this burden has been met by the government or public.

The Prospect Park Goose Advocates have been trying for a year to find out what determines an "acceptable" number of geese. Is 30 too many? If so, I really find it hard to believe that 1 isn't too many. I think if they come for the geese in Prospect Park and other locations outside the 7 mile radius, it will demonstrate that this has little to do with air safety or human health and is about meeting a quota. There are 20 or so geese at the park now. Let them live. It's their park too.

(Photo credit Theresa Galvin - June 12, 2011)