Thursday, July 07, 2011

A response to a proposal to feed on geese from the Charles River

The Cambridge Chronicle printed, in a non prominent place on the June 30, 2011 op ed page and on line, a letter from an individual proposing that the geese on the Charles River be used as a renewable source of food.

The following is Marilyn Wellons’ proposed response, sent to the Cambridge Chronicle on July 7. I thank Marilyn for her submission. I have been working on responses, at least in my mind. My key response which I submitted on line was, to put it mildly, not as moderate as Marilyn’s, and Marilyn’s response deservedly is not particularly moderate.


To the Editor:

Responding to a recent proposal to slaughter Canada geese on the Charles River to feed metro Boston’s hungry people, I submit the following alternative.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation has estimated the resident population of Canadas between the Watertown dam and Boston harbor at about 300. By poisoning the geese’s eggs since 2003, it has worked hard with the MSPCA and the CRC to hold that number down.

Most recent online data for the Greater Boston Food Bank indicate it fed nearly 400,000 people in 2009 ( By 2010 the need was surely even greater.

Given the number of hungry in these admittedly dismal times—even if the DCR were to establish industrial goose farming on the river—the supply of Canadas (a federally protected species) would be scarcely worth the effort. There are, however, many other cheap, local sources of protein the writer of your June 30, 2011 letter has failed to consider that would begin to fill those empty stomachs.

Elsewhere in the world people turn, for example, to dogs and cats. The MSPCA’s and other local shelters, overflowing with unwanted animals, should be glad to contribute. There are even, as Jonathan Swift pointed out in his own Modest Proposal (1729), the children of the poor themselves. They are more plentiful and, roasted at a year’s age, would surpass the food value of Canadas, to be sure.

As irritating as children may be from time to time, it is nevertheless true that, as with the proposal for geese or dogs or cats, there may be objections to the slaughter of children. Still, people are hungry. What to do?

Rats are grilled and served outside bars in other parts of the world. In metro Boston there are even more rats than children or unwanted companion animals. Given Cambridge’s own plentiful supply of rats, this is perhaps a better solution. The city already has the services of a rat consultant who could ensure the supply of locally sourced animals to our food pantries.

As your writer says, times are indeed dismal. There’s a chance restaurants and supermarkets might take up the rat fashion, with the bonus of an overall improvement in the city’s carbon footprint. With chimichurri or béarnaise, who knows how good a rat can be?