Looks like we ruffled some feathers (ha!) over at Treehugger, and they’ve posted a response. To be clear, I’m glad that both sides of this debate are focused on helping birds and easing their suffering, but let’s unpack this a bit:
I was assuming that everyone was aware of the opposing view: The conventional wisdom that cleaning birds is a good and worthy practice.
In fact, the opposing view I was hoping to see was a response from IBRRC to Silvia Gaus’s specific claims, not a rehash of how everyone feels about helping animals. We reported on IBRRC’s debunking in our follow-up, pointing out that “Gaus’s statistics are related to past North Sea oil spills, where birds are more prone to freezing”.
I’m sorry if this discussion makes some people uncomfortable, but it’s a discussion worth having.
I enjoy uncomfortable discussions (what vegan doesn’t?) but ultimately, Brian Merchant and I are two amateur observers trying to sort out the facts. Neither of us are doing the work of rescuing birds in the Gulf and observing how well they survive. (Disclosure: I volunteered for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and cleaned birds following the COSCO Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay.)
Novel ideas tend to excite more than the conventional wisdom, but is it truly a discussion worth having? IBRRC spends considerable resources to answer the exact question Mr. Merchant is posing. In science, it’s not the “scrappy bloggers” asking the tough questions; it’s the researchers themselves.
IBRRC doesn’t oppose euthanasia when necessary (and neither do I — not for animals, not for humans). But “kill-not-clean” is quickly becoming the new conventional wisdom, thanks to the media’s approach to science reporting. If Gaus’s claims are reported unchallenged, then the general public will be less willing to support organizations like the IBRRC. Why bother, after all, if they’re spending resources on an entirely futile task?
We should not only be trying to rescue as many animals as we can; we should be trying to understand what happens to them after we do, so we can keep getting better at it. IBRRC has been doing exactly that. Why not ask them about their research?