The Boston Globe reported that about 15 members of Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition showed up at the Braintree, Mass., municipal golf course to protest a decision by that city’s Board of Selectman allowing the shooting of Canadian geese to reduce the number that try to make the golf course home.
According to the Globe, the activists carried signs reading, “Stop the Slaughter” and “No Blood for Golf.” MARC member Jordan Gallagher told the Globe (emphasis added),
I love the geese. I know they go to the bathroom here and there, but there are other ways of removing them. When man has a problem today, whether it’s wolves, bears, or birds, the first thing they do is kill.
Maybe Gallagher’s got a point — perhaps instead of killing first, “man” should dispatch Gallagher to open diplomatic negotiations with the wolves and bears.
But lets consider his point about the geese going to the bathroom here and there. According to the Globe, as many as 100 to 400 geese show up on the golf course. Each of these geese, again according to the Globe, can produce anywhere from 1 to 3 pounds of feces each day.
Studies have shown that feces from Canadian geese pose a serious risk to human health. A 2002 study (PDF) of samples of Canadian geese fecal matter found that overall 25 percent of such samples contained pathogenic e. coli.
In the case of the Braintree golf course, the issue of diseases carried by the hundreds of pounds of geese feces is amplified because the golf course is part of a larger athletic field which regularly hosts sports programs for children.
As Charles Kokoros, chairman of the Braintree Board of Selectman, told the Globe,
It’s just way too many feces. It’s impossible to clean up and they spread disease. There are kids out there rolling in it, tackling in it. It isn’t healthy.
Which is why the Board has annually allowed the shooting of the geese annually since 1995.
But, in the typical animal rights formulation, to the activists this is an example of how human beings should put aside disease concerns in favor of the animals. MARC member Steve Rayshick told the Globe,
I think we need to recognize that these are wildlife and this is their habitat.
No, the golf course and athletic field are part of the human habitat; the animal rights activist just need to recognize that and accept the need to minimize the risk of disease in that habitat.
Prevalence of Escherichia coli serogroups and human virulence factors in faeces of urban Canada geese (Branta canadenses). (PDF) Kullas, H., et al, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 12, 153-162 (2002).
Avian Diseases: Carriage of Bacterial Pathogens by Canada Geese and Blackbirds. USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services, Accessed: December 11, 2005.
In Braintree, activists protest goose hunt on golf course. Tracy Jan, Boston Globe, December 11, 2005.