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Planned use of geese as food draws protest

Members of Friends of Animals and GooseWatch NYC

Members of Friends of Animals and GooseWatch NYC stand at a rally across the street from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's residence on East 79th Street in Manhattan as they protest plans to kill Canada geese in city parks. (June 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

About 50 people carrying signs across from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's townhouse yesterday evening protested plans to round up the city's wild geese and turn them into hamburgers for the homeless.

The protest near the mayor's home at 79th Street and Madison Avenue not far from Central Park was organized by the Friends of Animals and Goose Watch NYC organizations.

"The mayor doesn't want to hear from the animal-rights people," said Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals and a protest organizer. She said she tried to meet with the mayor to work out a solution, but his office declined.

Bloomberg's office said Wednesday the mayor had no response to the protesters.

The U.S. Wildlife Service, with the city Department of Environmental Protection's and the Port Authority's cooperation, plans to remove about 400 Canada geese from 14 city parks within 7 miles of Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports.

This is the fourth year of the removal program.

It's a response to the 2009 downing of an airliner into the Hudson River after geese were sucked into its engines and shut them down.

US Airways Flight 1549, en route from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, N.C., was forced to glide to a powerless landing in the Hudson. No one was seriously hurt.

Birnkrant said killing the local birds won't protect aircraft and that her members are prepared to go to the 14 parks involved during the roundups to interrupt the efforts by blowing whistles to disperse the birds before they are corralled.

She said she's tried to meet with Bloomberg to help find alternatives, such as growing the grass longer near the airports so the birds can't nest.

To catch the geese, the city says, biologists surround the birds, either on land or in the water, and corral them into a 4-foot-high plastic shelter.

Once corralled, the live birds are shipped to a meat-processing plant, where their breast meat is ground like hamburger and donated to food pantries.

This year, the meat will be donated to a regional food bank for distribution to local food pantries.

Goose Watch NYC questions whether the meat is safe to eat because the birds live in parks treated with pesticides.

Protester Patty Adjamine, 65, who lives near Central Park, wants the government to leave the birds alone. She said she recently counted only 35 Canada geese in Central Park. "If they go back in, they're going to kill them all, leaving us with nothing. It's an extermination."

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