On New Year's Day 2011, I heard a news story that bothered me. 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky over the streets of Beebee, Arkansas on New Year's Eve. Other reports of mass animal deaths began to be reported without explanation. Three weeks later, the USDA announced that it was responsible for a mass bird die-off in South Dakota which shed light onto a previously little-known USDA program officially named "Bye Bye Blackbird" since it began in the 1960s. Bye Bye Blackbird is an avicide (bird-poisoning) program operated under the department of Fish and Wildlife Services, which permits farmers to bait and poison fledgling migratory birds to protect against financial losses. Further research reveals that in 2009 alone, over 4,000,000 animals were poisoned or killed by the USDA.
Who decides who is worth saving or who is worth killing?
A line from Terry Tempest Williams’ “Refuge” which I particularly like: “When I’m out at the dump with starlings, I don’t want to like them. They are common. They are aggressive, and they behave poorly, crowding out other birds… Perhaps we project on starlings that which we deplore in ourselves: our numbers, our aggression, our greed, and our cruelty. Like starlings, we are taking over the world.”