N.Y. Times Not So Keen on Human Safety? '400 Park Geese Die, for Human Fliers' Sake' (Updated)

Update: I should have noticed that the "Stop the Goose Holocaust" page on Facebook is an animal-rights parody. (Just see the "yum yum" cooked goose photo. ) 

"Animal rights" groups often suggest that animal lives are just as precious as human lives, or even that innocent, instinctual animals are morally superior to arrogant reasoning humans. That view came through on the front page of The New York Times on Tuesday, in the headline "400 Park Geese Die, for Human Fliers' Sake." Times reporter Isolde Raftery channeled shock and disgust that authorities would euthanize Canada geese in Prospect Park for the sake of human air travelers -- even as the nation still recalls pilot Chesley Sullenberger's heroic Hudson River landing of a jet that failed after hitting geese.

Raftery left out the animal-rights partisans at the "Stop the Goose Holocaust" page on Facebook, which declares "This is a group devoted to stopping the Holocaust of New York area Canada Geese by that Nazi psycho Michael Bloomberg, who mocks and jests about it. He claims to be pro-immigrant but obviously hates Canadians, and especially Black Canadians, which the geese are."

In this case, the euthanizers were the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which have spurred goose memorial services in other states with their population-limiting actions. USDA spokeswoman Carol Bannerman offered the federal line:

Ms. Bannerman said the measure was necessary. “The thing to always remember in this New York situation is that we are talking about aviation and passenger and property safety,” she said. “In New York City, from 1981 to 1999, the population increase was sevenfold.”

The authorities have been thinning the region’s ranks of geese since some of them flew into the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009, forcing it to ditch in the Hudson River. Last summer, 1,235 were rounded up at 17 sites around the city and later killed. But the Prospect Park culling appears to be among the biggest, and its scope mortified some residents.

“It’s a horrible end,” said Anne-Katrin Titze, who went to the park nearly every morning to feed the geese. “It’s eerie to see a whole population gone. There’s not one goose on this lake. It looks as though they’ve been Photoshopped out.”

Ms. Titze and her partner, Ed Bahlman, noticed that the geese were missing on their regular trip to the park on Thursday. The couple found plastic zip-tie restraints in a pile near gosling feathers. They learned what had happened to the geese from news reports on Monday.

“The fact that this was done without letting the public know is the first concern,” Mr. Bahlman said. “There were so many people in the park over the last four days who noticed the geese were gone.”

In recent weeks, the Canada geese have begun their annual molting, meaning they could not fly. Their capture was timed to the molting.

Susan Elbin, conservation director at New York City Audubon, was cautiously supportive of the mass euthanizing. “There are ways to manage birds nonlethally,” Ms. Elbin said. “But if you’re trying to manage a population level, sometimes those hard decisions need to be made.”

The goal is to eliminate most of the geese within seven miles of the major airports in the region. Prospect Park is 6.5 miles from both La Guardia Airport and Kennedy Airport.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis