Having recently come across the concept of ‘International Rabbit Day’ which is apparently on 26 September, I was idly investigating which other species of humanity’s victims had ‘days’ and came across ‘Happy Goose Day’ on 29 September. This puzzled me. ‘Happy’? Considering that every single day that passes, nearly 2 million of these defenceless birds are slaughtered to form an unnecessary dietary indulgence for our predatory species, I’m fairly sure it’s not the geese who are happy.
An obvious association with 29 September, is that it is Michaelmas Day, one of the historic ‘Quarter Days‘. Falling near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days and in England a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, was traditionally eaten as a charm against financial hardship in the coming year; ‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day, Want not for money all the year’. Sometimes the day was also known as ‘Goose Day’.
Geese appear to have had significance throughout recorded history. From the ‘Goose that laid the golden eggs’, to ‘Mother Goose’, and ‘Goosey Gander’, these birds are woven into our cultural tales and nursery rhymes. In Egyptian mythology, the earth-god Geb was sometimes depicted with a goose surmounting his head. The Celts associated the goose with war and warrior gods were sometimes depicted with geese as companions. In Greek mythology, the goose is associated with Zeus and Artemis. The list goes on.
A number of varieties have wild populations and many of us are familiar with the magnificent sight and haunting sound of skeins of geese strung across the late autumnal sky, as they return inland to their feeding places. Here on the east coat of Scotland this is especially true. From their breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland, thousands spend the winter here, arriving September up to mid October. They roost on estuaries and lochs where they are relatively safe from predators. During the autumn and early winter mornings, pink-footed geese move from these roost sites to stubble fields, where they will feed upon spilt grain. Late afternoon sees the return flight to the roost sites, the birds’ distinctive calls carrying for several miles on still and misty days.
Many of these wild individuals are hunted by those despicable humans who find it ‘enjoyable’ or ‘entertaining’ to decoy and blast birds out of the sky for the crime of existing and quietly minding their own business. There appears to be a perverted thrill for some to watch their gentle victims as they tumble to earth wounded and broken in a rain of lead pellets, agony and blood. For myself I can only hope that these innocents die instantly but I know only too well that’s the exception rather than the rule.
In addition to this barbarity, clearly the wild geese, and all wild creatures, are at the mercy of humanity, subject to all the risks and pitfalls that arise from our toxic habits, rampant ecological destruction and rapidly changing climate which has passed the point of no return as a result of our folly.
But then of course we come to the mind-blowing array of sickening ways that our species exploits this species for human financial gain.
The number of 2 million daily quoted above (statistics via FAOSTAT) relates only to those individuals who are slaughtered for their dead flesh to be consumed by our species. Frequently bred by the use of artificial insemination with both the manual collection of semen from ganders and the insertion of the sperm into female geese being terrifying and brutally invasive procedures.
See the following link to an excellent paper by Karen Davis PhD that looks at the subject of interspecies sexual assault; a subject that underpins absolutely all of the uses our species makes of our fellow earthlings, smoothly glossed over by the industry and involved individuals who would understandably prefer consumers not to give it even a passing thought. Ask yourself at this point if you’d ever thought about it. It was only after I became vegan that I looked into and was sickened by that particular perversion.
This is a highly lucrative, multi-million dollar market. While approximately 90% of global production comes from the EU, the other main producing countries are China, the United States and Canada. ‘Foie gras’ means ‘fatty liver’ and is produced by confining and force-feeding ducks and geese twice or three times a day with huge amounts of feed for a period of upwards of 17 days in the case of geese, before they are slaughtered. Force-feeding increases the size of the liver by up to ten times and the fat content of the liver exceeds 50%.
There are reams written about the issue of foie gras with frequent high-profile protests and bans in various places but it continues to exist. As with all our uses of other species, the details about how and where it happens are a fog that clouds the central issue. The very concept is an obscenity. Any who can envisage a morally decent way for this procedure to be conducted are welcome to use Google to enlighten themselves. I hope they have a strong stomach.
Geese are one of the bird species used for their feathers. While researching this piece I came across numerous articles that, without being specific, nevertheless suggested that the use of feathers is a by-product of the slaughter of birds for their dead flesh and/or body parts. I have no reason to doubt that this is the case; however that means that like dairy use and consumption, feather and down use is exactly the same as using and consuming dead flesh. Milk/flesh, feathers/flesh, eggs/flesh are each two sides of a brutal and monstrous coin.
However, the plucking of live birds remains a thriving trade, to provide the ‘luxury’ bedding and clothing markets with feathers and down. We’ve all seen the adverts for fancy ‘polar down’ jackets and duvets, many of us without knowing what’s involved. When we find out, it’s hard to believe and we are swamped with sickened horror to realise that by buying such items we are complicit in an atrocity that we can scarcely bear to consider.
Again we find reams online about the use of goose eggs as a dietary indulgence for humans. The market appears to be expanding – unsurprisingly – but I have been unable to determine a size for the commercial global laying flock. Having said that, there is no doubt that goose eggs are available commercially – often from ‘back yard’ exploiters of various species of birds. All that can be said is that the same applies to the use of goose eggs as to the use of any other species’ eggs. They are not ours, as I recently wrote in a blog entitled ‘What are eggs for?’
‘Happy Goose Day’
So there we have it – while not comprehensive, it’s a brief look at a number of the ways our species uses these lovely birds; always for what can be taken from them without their consent and only if it’s financially viable.
So I return to the words that set me off on this blog; ‘Happy Goose Day’ to wonder again what the meaning can possibly be. Nothing that our species does to geese could conceivably be said to bring them happiness, so it’s not they who are happy.
And any humans who can find happiness in the myriad horrors that we inflict on them is, I’d suggest, in dire need of help.
So I’m forced to conclude that ‘Happy Goose Day’ is just another one of the trite phrases that’s trotted out by humans without thought, without conscience and without understanding; a phrase that’s kept in the same compartment as the one about ‘loving animals’ while they pay for the consequences of the most monstrous suffering to be inflicted on every species on the planet.
What can we do about it? We can refuse to be part of this barbarity by not buying the results. We can say, ‘enough’. And that means we must be vegan.
*Note about slaughter
Many geese are, like chickens and turkeys, slaughtered in poultry slaughterhouses and I’ve written frequently about these hell-holes’, however regulations do not prevent home slaughter without a licence if ‘you own the animal and you kill it on your property.’ I’m including this to show just how ludicrous it is for those who continue to use and consume other animals to cling to their fond imaginings about ‘welfare regulations’ protecting anything other than the commercial interests of the exploiters.
About home slaughter, English Government rules state:
‘If you have no other method of stunning poultry available, you can stun birds up to 3kg by dislocating their necks by hand. You can kill up to 70 birds a day in this way. You can mechanically dislocate birds’ necks on birds up to 5kg. If birds weigh more than 5kg you must use another method such as electrical stunning.
After you’ve stunned a bird, you must immediately cut the 2 carotid arteries in the neck properly so the bird bleeds out quickly and completely. You must make sure the animal dies quickly without regaining consciousness.
You must wait until the bird is dead until you do anything to it, e.g. pluck it.
You must wait for birds to bleed out for the following amounts of time:
turkey or geese – at least 2 minutes’