Angelique Rivard and Ally Bernstein
Recent breaking news of the Village of Scarsdale’s plan to slaughter the group of geese who consider Audrey Hochberg Pond their home, along with their babies in March, and then donate the meat to a local food bank has caused quite a stir among interested members of the public. After receiving complaints from local attendees of the pond explaining they “were tired of stepping around the droppings” and claimed the geese were “attacking them” after people got “too close to their eggs,” the Village of Scarsdale decided the best solution would be to enter into a contract with the USDA, slaughter the geese, and feed them to the needy.
Unfortunately, slaughtering geese is not news to the residents of Westchester County, as the county routinely kills geese in an effort to control population. But has the county gone too far and made killing geese before considering any alternatives too easy and too commonplace? Has the village gone too far in claiming they are doing a public service by killing the geese and feeding it to the poor?
Before we make the case for the Scarsdale Geese, let us make a disclaimer: we can all agree that wildlife control issues are a sensitive subject due to the varying viewpoints across the board from wildlife protectionists, animal welfarists, environmental conservationists, hunters, and the general public. In many cases, such as those dealing with population control, the issues are: what is the best solution and what factors do we need to consider in implementing the solution. Such factors include: whether or not the targeted animal is a danger or threat to other animals and humans; what the costs of implementing the solution are; and what the environmental and ecological impacts of dealing with the target animal will have in the future. Dealing with any one of the multitude of factors often leaves the interest groups on opposite sides of the fence or right on the fence, making for long debates over what the final solution will be. Finding a solution usually requires extensive research about all of the factors and a thorough investigation into the impacts of the final decision.
But the issue here is much more than an animal rights issue. It is an economic issue. Instead of being applied to educational or safety initiatives, taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the slaughter. And furthermore, this type of “solution” is inefficient since the geese will just return, inducing a habitual slaughter of geese every year. It is also a human rights issue. While feeding the poor and hungry is of great concern, shouldn’t the food being fed to them be monitored as if it were sold in grocery stores? The geese in Scarsdale have fed on chemically fertilized grass for their entire lives, making their meat unsuitable for human consumption. And furthermore, the plans to have the geese meat inspected by the FDA prior to distribution to the food bank are inconclusive. It is an environmental issue. Wildlife, humans and nature all must coexist in order to have a symbiotic ecosystem. While it is true that geese are not endangered, setting these types of precedents can have scourging consequences for other species in the near future. It would seem illogical to extinguish a particular species in a certain area any time they grew too inconvenient for another species
And of course, to come full circle, it IS an animal rights issue. Protection for the geese and humans alike, who share the aesthetics of the Audrey Hochberg pond must be achieved. They must live in harmony in order to survive. Often, the reason conflicts occur is due to children approaching the nests of eggs and disturbing them. Many times, children step on these eggs for sport. Just like any mother of any species, they have protective instincts to chase away predators. If the geese were not provoked, there would be little to no reason for attacks. As humans, we cannot cause part of the problem and then take no responsibility in its negative repercussions.
As responsible humans capable of understanding what is wrong and right, we need to make it a priority to explore alternatives to slaughtering a group of animals rather than opting to wipe out groups of animals without extremely compelling reasons. Alternatives that have been used to combat this issue in other parts of Westchester County have included relocating the geese, installing a fence that is high enough to keep the geese out, the use of border collies to round up the geese, deterrence mechanisms, and the use of decoys to mimic the natural predators. While some of these options might not be feasible for use at this particular pond, we are sure that at least one of them is a more practical, cost effective, and humane alternative.
So, what can you do? If you are a constituent in the Village of Scarsdale your voice will have great influence. Speak out to your representatives and tell them that you oppose this inhumane solution. Attend a Scarsdale Village Board Meeting. The upcoming meetings are scheduled for Feb. 13th and Feb. 26th. You can find more information about these meetings here. Even if you are not a Scarsdale resident, like us, you can still speak out. Find out who your Westchester County Legislator is by going to this website. If you do plan to attend a meeting, bring a petition with you stating that you “Oppose the Scarsdale Geese Slaughter” and get as many signatures as possible. It is our duty to give voice to the voiceless and take action to prevent unnecessary extermination of undeserving groups of animals.