Open Letter to Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States With Request for Response.

Open Letter to Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States With Request for Response.

Dear Wayne Pacelle,

Your news release of 8 December 2005, entitled “The Humane Society of the United States Urges Connecticut Power Company To Adopt Innovative Long-Term Plan Instead of Killing Monk Parrots” (see full text below) states:

“Earlier this week, the power company told a Connecticut Superior Court judge that more than 100 nests will still be removed from the poles yet no more birds will be euthanized this month.”

Unfortunately, nowhere does the Humane Society’s release state the actual details: Friends of Animals (not the Humane Society) went into court and will be returning to court in January to address the matter of the capture, killing, and dissection — activities which should not be termed euthanasia — of the Monk Parakeets.

The Humane Society’s release states:

“In a letter sent Wednesday to United Illuminating Company, The Humane Society of the United States is encouraging the company to develop a long-term humane plan for dealing with the monk parrots who have been nesting on the company’s utility poles.”

With a specialist in the study of Monk Parakeets as an expert witness, Friends of Animals is working on legal submissions. It’s irrational that other organizations would be negotiating with a party with whom Friends of Animals is in an adversarial proceeding, without ensuring that this is discussed and agreed upon by the organization which has been and continues to be litigating.

Moreover, it’s an imprudent use of the resources made available to the Humane Society, given that countless animal protection issues await advocacy with no group available to currently support them, because advocacy resources are finite. In the case of the Monk Parakeets in Connecticut, Friends of Animals is focusing on feasible, prudent alternatives to rounding up, killing, and dissection of the parakeets.

We respect these birds’ interest in shelter as well as freedom from disturbance or molestation, and reject the portrayals issued by United Illuminating, Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) of Monk Parakeets as invasive or as nuisances. The birds in Connecticut do not fit the federal definition of invasive if they have not caused harm to humans or to structures or the environment.

We do not accept the idea, which could be inferred from statements made to the media by the Humane Society, that the broad idea of “harassment” always (a) constitutes a suitable compromise or (b) has been proven necessary.

In any case, any suggestions in addition to the ones we are recommending should be presented to Friends of Animals so that they can be considered in context of the preparations being made for future court presentations.

As the Humane Society has decided to circulate the release publicly, we’re asking questions publicly regarding that release.

Here are the questions for which we await reply:

1. People have contacted Friends of Animals with written reports and questions regarding United Illuminating being asked to use Airepel’s goose deterrent on Monk Parakeets in Connecticut.

Airepel’s product Avipel, defined as a “nuisance bird repellent” whose active ingredient is anthraquinone, is endorsed on the Humane Society’s Web site in “Guide to Retail Sources for Products to Resolve Wildlife Conflicts.” Avipel is typically advanced as a goose repellent, but has been tested and used on a variety of birds.

Reportedly, Airepel gave a presentation to Florida Power and Light on using their “nuisance repellent” on Monk Parakeets. According to Connecticut residents who have consulted our headquarters, Airepel may have been offered to treat any pole for United Illuminating at no charge.

Product data indicate that this is an invasive technique. The desciption for FlightControl, a product whose active ingredient is anthraquinone, states: “Geese will sample the area. They may react by shaking their heads, drinking water, and pecking at their bellies and rubbing their necks.” The chemical is not water soluble, indicating that its effects and its persistence in the environment might be prolonged.

One biologist with Airepel avian repellent informs our office that, when ingested as birds preen, it causes “slight stomach or gas pains.”

Has the Humane Society endorsed this or a similar product to decision-makers at United Illuminating, or would the Society oppose such a suggestion, if indeed it was made?


2. Please specify details for all methods that the Humane Society is encouraging the company to consider as “a long-term humane plan for dealing with the monk parrots.”

CONCLUSION

We at Friends of Animals advocate for legal protection for these parrots, not that they be treated as subjects of invasive research, or as enemies to be chemically controlled. We wish for the animal advocacy community to understand that while we do seek alternatives to killing, that is not the same thing as supporting any and all harassment.

There is a difference between, on one hand, physical deterrents that provide physical blocks to the birds but are harmless, and, on the other hand, methods intended to remove the animals from their ecological niches or to subject them to invasive, pharmaceutical control. Examples of the latter include Avitrol (a notorious bird biocide), Airepel’s Avipel (discussed above), and egg addling (endorsed by the Humane Society in some cases of perceived conflicts between humans and birds). We plan to endorse no such methods through our litigation and we will oppose them strenuously if they are sought to be used against these birds.

The tendency of birds to alight and build nests on the surfaces they’ve been choosing has to do with pole height, traction, and other attractive features, in addition to lack of routine maintenance by the company. A problem related to engineering and maintenance is likely to be best solved by looking to better engineering and maintenance. Many public structures deter birds by making the surfaces unsuitable for nesting. The best ideas in these cases involve humans controlling our own handiwork, rather than controlling the birds.

This is the spirit in which the litigation is moving forward.

We look forward to your reply.

Very truly yours,

Bill Dollinger
Director, Washington DC Office, Friends of Animals
Website / Monk parrot information & discussion: www.friendsofanimals.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES URGES CONNECTICUT POWER COMPANY TO ADOPT INNOVATIVE LONG-TERM PLAN INSTEAD OF KILLING MONK PARROTS

WASHINGTON (December 8, 2005)-In a letter sent Wednesday to United Illuminating Company, The Humane Society of the United States is encouraging the company to develop a long-term humane plan for dealing with the monk parrots who have been nesting on the company’s utility poles. Earlier this week, the power company told a Connecticut Superior Court judge that more than 100 nests will still be removed from the poles yet no more birds will be euthanized this month.

The HSUS offered to work with UI in creating an innovative non-lethal strategy to discourage the monk parakeets from nesting on the poles, which, according to the company, can create a fire hazard and electricity blackouts. To date, UI’s approach, which started last month, had been to remove the birds from their nest then turn them over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which used carbon dioxide to kill the birds. The 6-week program was to cost $125,000 and would have meant the deaths of thousands of monk parrots.

“Without implementing a more permanent, exclusion-based solution, UI will find that other birds will soon replace those removed, and the killing program will be on the table again and again,” wrote Laura J. Simon, field director of The HSUS Urban Wildlife Program. “Lethal control programs are not only quite costly from the outset but involve a continuing and significant outlay of funds.”

The HSUS supports the creation of a long-term plan which would effectively dissuade the birds from taking up residence on the utility poles. The HSUS encourages UI to set the standard for other companies to follow. To view the letter to Nathaniel Woodson, chairman and CEO of United Illuminating Company, contact the HSUS at the number/e-mail below.

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