If you thought it was cruel to kill the cuddly badger, wait until you hear what is planned for the symbol of love.

Swans, the graceful bird most likely to be fed by loved-up and blithely unaware couples taking a romantic stroll, are to be culled in New York.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has said the wild mute swans are a menace, incompatible with the environment, and must be stopped. Long admired for their elegant necks and snowy feathers, the birds are not native to the US, but were brought over from Europe in the 1800.

mute swans new york

Mute swans swim in the waters near City Island in New York


Everyone who enjoys an old wives' tale knows a swan can break a man's arm. But arguments for a cull which are more rooted in science are the detrimental effects swans have on their fellow birds, often attacking ducks and geese, dropping faeces that contain e.coli and posing a risk to passenger planes when they take flight.

The plan is to destroy virtually all of the 2,200 swans in the state by 2025, according to a report by the New York Times.

That is by any means necessary, shooting, trapping, gassing and oiling eggs to prevent chicks hatching.

It is a challenging PR win, to say the least. Bryan Swift, the state's waterfowl specialist told the Times:"I knew there would be a lot of passionate defenders of swans, but we can’t base our management policies just on the aesthetics of a bird when it has such negative impacts."

Environmental groups are horrified. Goose Watch NYC, set up to protest geese culls, said they would campaign against the proposal.

"It's just outrageous to try to exterminate an entire species that has been living in the state for more than 150 years, almost 200 years," Watch founder David Karopkin told AFP.

I've yet to find anyone who has been seriously injured by a mute swan," he said.

"When they're being aggressive it's often in relation to them protecting their nest, their babies. I mean people need to have some common sense," he added.