OCEAN BREEZE — Residents have banded together to try and save Staten Island’s wild turkeys, which are bound for the slaughterhouse after being chided for their droppings, interfering with traffic and aggressiveness towards locals.
Protesters stood outside the gate of the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Wednesday with signs to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop sending the nearly 80 turkeys that live on the grounds to the slaughterhouses.
“That’s absolutely inhumane and disgusting,” said City Council candidate John Mancuso, who helped organize the rally. “They’re going to take these turkeys, and then bring them to a slaughterhouse and have them killed because they’re considered to be a nuisance.”
Mancuso said he’s called on the USDA to leave the turkeys they haven’t yet removed from the grounds, and move the nearly 60 they’ve already taken to an animal sanctuary if they haven’t been slaughtered yet.
“We can still have the turkeys here, but control the population so that it doesn’t get out of control,” he said.
Currently, about 15 adult turkeys and seven turkey babies are still on the property, and Mancuso said he’s found several sanctuaries in New Jersey and upstate willing to take them in.
On Monday, the USDA started to round up the turkeys on the grounds and take them to state-approved facilities, Carol Bannerman, spokeswoman for the USDA, told DNAinfo New York on Tuesday.
Bannerman said the USDA started to capture and remove the turkeys after the psychiatric center complained of sanitary issues from turkey poop, traffic problems with birds crossing Seaview Avenue and aggressiveness of them toward staff, patients and visitors.
Bannerman said the meat from the slaughtered turkeys so far "will be stored frozen until testing confirms its suitability for donation for human consumption," which would be donated to a local charity.
However, Megan Delmar, who runs a therapeutic horse-riding program next door to the center, said in her 14 years of running the stables, she hasn’t seen the turkeys being aggressive at all.
“They’ve never really been a problem,” said Delmar. “The kids love them — they’re nice to look at.”
Delmar said she wished the government gave people the chance to give their opinion on the turkeys.
“Slaughter for the sake of slaughtering is just not the answer,” Delmar said. Staten Islanders also started an online petition to save the turkeys, which has collected nearly 1,700 signatures in two days.
“There was no transparency or public discussion about the killing of our turkeys either because the powers that be know [it] is wrong and know that the public would object,” the petition said. “These turkeys are companions to many, attract tourists and even have helped people meet & bond with one another.”
Many of the protestors said they understood that the center wanted the birds off of their property, but wondered why they couldn’t just be relocated.
Bannerman said that, because some the flock had some hybrid turkeys — wild turkeys which bred with domestic turkeys that were abandoned in the 1980s — the state DEC said they couldn't be relocated.
At the rally, Joseph McAllister, president of the South Beach Civic Association, said that the overpopulation of turkeys in the area has been a problem for years, and wondered why the USDA took action now after so long.
"This has been an issue for years already,” he said. “This is the way we take care of animals in our own backyard?”