Saturday, April 15, 2006

An update on the chickens

The Key West City Commission takes on the Key West Chickens this Tuesday.

The Key West Citizen and the Keynoter both have articles on the meeting.

There's a lot of background chatter in the community and elsewhere, pro-chicken and anti-chicken, and the story has been picked up by AP and, thus, many newspapers around the nation and around the world. Matt Drudge had it on the Drudge Report earlier today, but it's gone now. It was a link to the AP story running in the New York Times. Google News shows 58 hits as of this afternoon. I'm sure that's going to grow through the weekend.

The Commission's resolution strikes us as draconian. We understand that there is a 30-year old ordinance that seems to govern here. Ordinances can be changed. We understand that there is a need for cautious preparation should avian flu arrive in the United States, and we support that much of the initiative. But this resolution would merely direct City Staff to round up every free-roaming chicken on public property, and encourages those private property owners with roosters to have the City trap them too and take them away.

Further, the resolution says nothing at all about what will be done to the chickens captured. There's been some discussion of bringing them to the bird pens at McCoy Indigenous Park. Those pens might possibly hold a few dozen chickens. And we remember very well the disappearance of the chickens rounded up by the Chicken Catcher before that less extreme eradication program came to an ignoble end a few of years ago. Despite the City assurances that the captives would be transferred to a great chicken ranch in Miramar, there to live out their lives eating bugs and scorpions, no one has ever been able to locate even one of them, much less a flock of over 500. A team of college students went looking for them a year or two ago. The only thing they found nearby the place where the chickens were supposed to be was a slaughterhouse of some sort. The Assistant City Manager assures anyone who asks that the birds are all safe and happy, but doesn't respond with any specifics about their location or the name of the man who retrieved them when asked. He keeps saying that he'll arrange a trip there to prove the chickens are OK "soon", and that anyone who wants to go along may do so.

Bill Verge is a thoughtful guy and he's sincerely concerned about the potential of avian flu arriving in Key West. But consider: what communities outside of the Keys are ready and willing to import thousands of chickens in the face of that same concern, and guarantee that they'll not be slaughtered at the first sign of a U.S. outbreak. Heck, that would probably be the outcome here too in that circumstance, but at least the chickens would be here in the event that there isn't an outbreak.

There's a lot of emotion involved in this matter, passion in fact. But rather than draw battle lines, there should be peace talks underway, with KPs (Knowledgeable People) on both sides involved seeking a solution that inflicts the least damage on a treasured Key West difference, one that shows the diversity about which are rightly proud, the famous Key West Gypsy Chicken. Birth control, not avicide. Control, not elimination. Reduction, not removal. Can we all just get along?

I awoke this morning thinking about this:

They came for the chickens, but we weren't chickens so we said nothing.

Then they came for the ducks and the geese, but we weren't ducks or geese, so we said nothing.

Then they came the pelicans, the buzzards and the gulls. We weren't any of those, so we remained silent.

They came after the dogs and cats, ordered mandatory neutering, but we weren't a dog or cat, so we didn't protest.

Finally they came after us, but was too too late. The pattern was established and we didn't have a chance.

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