A Texas airport has drawn the ire of animal advocates for using a questionable poison to kill, in the name of public health and safety, hundreds of “nuisance” birds.
KHOU reports that United Airlines partnered up with a pest control contractor to poison birds in an effort to “reduce the health and safety risks posed by birds” at Bush Intercontinental Airport. The company United Airlines hired went with controversial poison Avitrol to get the job done and placed tainted corn kernels at 20 different sites around the airport’s terminals, in addition to United’s maintenance hangar.
According to the manufacturer Avitrol, which affects the nervous system, is supposed to frighten off other birds who see their counterparts in distress. The makers claim the poison is painless but, of the hundreds of birds that were confirmed to have been killed, many could clearly be seen suffering as they slowly died.
Witnesses described the disturbing sight after seeing hundreds of birds falling from the sky, having seizures and writhing on the ground. Footage taken by KHOU shows the unquestionably inhumane nature of these poisons, and reported that one bird struggled for a full hour before it died.
Critics of the poison insist that clearly it isn’t a humane way of dealing with birds who might pose problems at airports. Avitrol itself has been banned in several cities and in the State of New York over concerns that it’s cruel and too dangerous to leave around public places.
Yet airport officials have defended the action in a statement, saying that it typically uses non-lethal methods to control birds, but that it will also use approved chemicals. After reviewing what happened, officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also concluded that using the poison fell perfectly within regulatory guidelines for dealing with “nuisance” birds.
Following the backlash, officials have at least backtracked a little. Mayor Annise Parker got involved and said the city of Houston will review how it handles wildlife conflicts at airports, stating “The Houston Airport System is aware of the sensitive nature of this topic and certainly wants to move forward in a respectful manner.”
A spokesperson for United also said the airline will be working with the contractor to explore alternative methods to control birds at the airport in the future.
While animal advocates recognize the potential threat of bird strikes, they’re pushing for alternatives including netting, removing food sources, using birth control, using loud noises and landscaping to make airports undesirable and deter birds from landing there in the first place. Still, others argue that needlessly killing birds will only open up the area for new birds to come in, which will lead to an endless killing cycle, and that, like every other poison left out to allegedly manage wildlife, the poison poses secondary risks because it doesn’t discriminate between which animals it kills.
Please sign and share our petition asking the Texas Airport System to stop using lethal methods to control birds and to adopt alternatives that will keep both wildlife and travelers safe.
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