"There is not a lot of cost involved in rounding up a couple thousand geese and letting them go to sleep with nice dreams." Mayor Michael Bloomberg
“Look, we try to start very early in the morning so that the geese don’t overheat. When they are in our care, we have to take the best possible care of them.” He pauses. “The other thing is that in the morning, they are flocked tight, and so it’s easier to round them up.” Lee Humberg, USDA Wildlife Services (From "Who Cries for the Goose Killer" by Robert Sullivan, Published Jun 19, 2011 – New York Magazine)
The above quotes are used to justify the violent measures by which USDA Wildlife Services profits to eliminate animals which are considered nuisances or threats to human health and safety. In New York City the USDA’s target is Canada geese, however, a multitude species of animals are killed across the country.
While many trust our officials and put faith in their judgment, not everyone is convinced and many are beginning to see USDA Wildlife Services for what it is – a for profit arm of the government which works at the behest of big industries, and preys on the fears and whims of communities intolerant to wildlife.
Since GooseWatch NYC got involved in our advocacy for geese in New York City, we've learned a lot about USDA Wildlife Services, the federal agency that is physically killing the geese. Back in 2010 Carol Vinzant wrote in New York Magazine about the sheer numbers of animals killed each year in the U.S. by Wildlife Services, in 2011 Mary Lou Simms revealed the incredible amount of money that was being spent by taxpayers to fund Wildlife Services, and in 2012 Tom Knudson at the Sacramento Bee documented the brutally inhumane methods of killing wildlife, and companion animals in the process. Federal legislators from California, Oregon, and elsewhere are calling for reforms and de-funding of Wildlife Services because of their cruelty, and the lack of legitimate and unbiased scientific basis for their activities. Learn more about USDA Wildlife Services on our website.
"This agency has become an outlet for people to abuse animals for no particular reason," Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif.
There's no question the USDA has suspect motives - it's a direct conflict of interest for the agency to justify its own needless killing of urban wildlife, which they directly profit from. Last summer an OpEd by Mary Lou Simms indicated in greater detail the extent to which profit, and not safety, motivates USDA WIldlife Services: Geese round-ups more about profit than poop (Fairhope Courier op-ed), VIEWPOINTS: Geese roundups around airports are for profit, not safety. On November 18, 2012 Tom Knudson of the Sacramento Bee documented how Federal Wildlife Services makes a killing in animal-control business. Organizations across the country are fighting back against Wildlife Services, and the issue is finally beginning to receive mainstream attention.
“Wildlife Services -- is the USDA's dirty little secret.” Mary Lou Simms
Yet New York City leads the way when it comes to contracting with these glorified for-profit governmental exterminators. In the four summers the USDA has been killing geese in NYC parks, taxpayers have shelled out $166,866 to date to kill 3,776 geese, which equals $44 for each goose killed. The cost allotted to killing geese in NYC parks this and next summer is $141,716. The contract between the City and USDA Wildlife Services is not currently set to expire until June 30, 2014.
Knudson writes, “Wildlife Services spokeswoman Carol Bannerman defended the agency's contracting practices. “Congress has provided Wildlife Services with the legislative authority to conduct wildlife damage activities, except for urban rodent control, wherever there is a need expressed by the public," she wrote in an email.
Mary Lou Simms reports that “taxpayers are subsidizing a $126.5 million program that exterminates more than 5 million wild animals annually, including thousands of community geese.”
“Wildlife Services receives a limited amount of funds from the general fund of the U.S. Treasury that allows it to perform some services for the public good. However, Wildlife Services’ funding is also based upon its ability to enter into contracts to provide services and receive reimbursement for the cost of the services. Legislation allows Wildlife Services to collect this money and return it to the program rather than the general funds of the U.S. Treasury. Consequently, Wildlife Services may enter into a cooperative service agreement with an airport operator for reimbursement of services to perform a wildlife hazard assessment on an airport.”
Of course, Wildlife Services does not only target geese. USDA Wildlife Services has caught the attention of numerous animal welfare and environmental groups for their haphazard and indiscriminate slaughter of predators, including a federal suit by WildEarth Guardians. Predator Defense has a catalog on the USDA's War on Wildlife. For a government agency that reportedly kills 5 million animals each year, this report and the accompanying photos (reproduced below) are just the tip of the iceberg. “Photos published by Wildlife Services employee illustrate torture”, by Ken Cole, Nov. 2, 2012. (Photos, Letter from Animal Welfare Institute to Wildlife Services).
USDA Wildlife Services' kill data:
The following charts on kill data are sourced directly from USDA Wildlife Services:
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