Less than 1 percent of oil-soaked birds survive. Now that the gulf is awash in oil, what do we do with this epidemic of slowly suffering wildlife? We've reached the point that mass euthanasia may be the kindest option.
Between a rock, a hard place, and globally corrosive curd of killer oil, we find ourselves with an avian Sophie's choice: Do we continue the Sisyphean task of scrubbing the birds, one by one? Let them wander around coated in oil until they die naturally? Or put them out of their misery?
Capturing and scrubbing birds is labor-intensive and ultimately unlikely to save them: The median lifespan of a scrubbed bird is seven days of traumatized, liver- and kidney-damaged suffering. "According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent," estimates one scientist who advocates euthanasia. Rescuers have tried forcefeeding birds Pepto Bismol to reduce oil toxicity, but for the vast majority of the gulf's birds, the damage is or will be too great. Even the World Wildlife Fund agrees: The kindest thing we can do is kill the afflicted.
And there you have it: We have finally messed up our planet so severely that, for some animals, extinction would be a blessing.
If you're curious about bird-scrubbing, here are some professionals doing it to one oily bird that washed ashore in Los Angeles last year.