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.

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