Place moratorium on killing mute swans
This story was corrected on June 17, 2009. An explanation of the correction is at the end of the story.
John R. Griffin, secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, has approved the majority report of an advisory group to exterminate the mute swan in Maryland, saying the bird is affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
However, a member of the group — Dr. John Grandy, an ornithologist and a vice president of the Humane Society of the United States — and many others, are calling the swan a "scapegoat" for the Bay's ever-worsening condition.
The swan is the scapegoat for the DNR's failure to control the real problems of the dying Bay for 25 years: factory farming and fishing, over-development and sewage pollution.
DNR will not control these interests because they are so moneyed and powerful they don't dare cross them. How much easier to torture and kill defenseless swans. As a testament to their failure, President Barack Obama recently gave control of the Bay restoration to the new Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay, composed of seven key federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, which will chair the committee.
In the DNR's 2003 management plan, it said that mute swans were not a major Bay problem, but "they could be." At that time the birds' population was about 4,000. DNR also said at less than 500 the swans would cause "no ecological damage." They now turn around and repudiate that statement, saying all must be exterminated. There are now less than 400 mute swans, after more than 3,100 swans were killed since 2005.
As noted in a recent petition filed with the Attorney General by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Advocates, DNR is using inhumane methods to kill the swans. For example: rounding them up, placing them in a gunny sacks, beating them with hammers and then crushing their beautiful necks with a bolt cutter-like instrument. In fact this inhumane behavior is considered "aggravated cruelty to animals" under the Code of Maryland (Section 10-606), which requires the most humane method reasonably available and is a felony under the 2001 law. I would call it clear torture.
The DNR says it is complying with guidelines set by the American Veterinary Medical Association for "euthanasia," but these guidelines require anesthesia, which is not used. Certainly hammers are unthinkable in a statute that prohibits "cruelly beat(ing)" animals.
According to a story in The Gazette ("State to move forward with plan to kill Chesapeake Bay's mute swans," June 12), the DNR is reducing the swan population by coating their eggs with corn oil so they won't develop, shooting them or breaking their necks with a device.
The Bay has been taken over by the federal government by executive order. A moratorium must be placed on the killing, torture, cruelty and scapegoating of the mute swan until the new Federal Leadership Committee makes its first report in the next few months.
Meanwhile the Attorney General needs to seriously investigate the charges of violations of the "Aggravated Cruelty to Animals" law as charged.
Jane Ann S. Wilder has been an environmental activist in the county for 24 years. She is a former chairwoman of the Montgomery County Civic Federation's Environment Committee, chair of its Wetlands Subcommittee, and a member of the county's Stormwater Advisory Committee for five years. She is a member of the Montgomery Village Committee on the Environment, and has received various awards for her contributions to environmental welfare. She lives in Montgomery Village.
Correction: The original version of this story stated that the writer chairs the Montgomery Village Committee on the Environment. She is a member of the committee.