Some Denver residents are still unaware of the roundup and mass killing of over a thousand Canada geese in Washington Park and other Denver city parks, which took place toward the end of June. The city claimed that the geese were a health problem; and the goose meat is going to the homeless.
Before getting to the rationale for the mass killing of innocent creatures in our parks, it’s worth reflecting on the irony of giving their meat to the homeless. The meat is likely tainted with pesticides and metals, and a few years ago some city officials seemed to think that this precluded feeding the meat to the homeless. Evidently the city has now resolved its doubts on that score. The city also recently defeated, overwhelmingly, Initiative 300, which in effect would have legalized homelessness in Denver by repealing the “camping ban.” Congratulations, homeless people! You won’t be able to sleep anywhere — but you WILL get some goose meat of questionable quality.
Initiative 300 (on homelessness) had the support of the ACLU and the Democratic Party; and Denver is an overwhelmingly Democratic town. But after someone with LOTS of money flooded the city with yard signs urging us to vote NO on 300 — I never saw a single “Yes” sign — the “No” alternative got over 80% of the votes. All right, there may have been some legitimate questions about Initiative 300. But I didn’t see reason and debate in this campaign. All I saw was greedy people with a lot of money more concerned about the city’s image than about the homeless.
The same process is at work with the mass killings of the geese. The geese presented an image problem. People who live close to Washington Park have complained about the geese and their poop, and there is considerable reason to sympathize with them. But while there is reason for concern about the poop, somehow the fact that the geese poop doesn’t seem to deserve the death penalty.
Do the geese present a health problem? It is hypocritical, but necessary, to insist on this, because the permit to kill the geese specifically says that “You may not use this authority in situations in which migratory birds are merely causing a nuisance” (emphasis in original). Certainly we should be cautious about coming into contact with geese; but so far, the idea of substantial health hazards from wild geese seems to lack a scientific basis. Some who work with wildlife on a regular basis believe that the chances of picking up disease from geese is remote, even for those who have regular, hands-on contact. A 2001 review article found disease links “difficult to prove”; a 2017 article reviewed over a dozen possibilities, including avian flu, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, but found no evidence of disease transmission to humans or livestock. Show us the science, please.
This whole process was corrupt and hypocritical from the very beginning. Most likely, the decision to kill the geese was made in secret last year, but the killing only began once Mayor Hancock had won re-election in one of the closest city elections in recent memory. If this decision had been publicized at the same time it was made, there is a strong possibility that Hancock would have been defeated.
The geese, like the homeless, present Denver with an image problem. Rather than work together for an effective resolution, the city decided to kill the former and feed them to the latter.
Fabulous commentary, Keith. Especially your closing line!
Very good piece. In addition to the massacre of Denver’s geese, I am very troubled by the lack of public input, transparency and accountability in local government. I am deeply troubled how the massacre is being spun as something noble to feed the homeless when Denver seems more interested in covering over issues than fixing them. Somehow feeding uninspected meat(from birds they will kill for health reasons (?!?) to the needy is a flippant response to the issue of homelessness and need in the city. I am thankful for more thoughtful commentary and questions, something so far the Denver media has failed at doing well.
Friends of Animals has today filed a lawsuit over Denver’s slaughter of the geese. The lawsuit raises some of the same issues discussed above. Denver broke the law because there was no significant health risk determined to exist and the permit did not permit the geese to be fed to anyone (not the homeless, not anyone else).