Shot for a Tulip
Tribe of Heart:
Our local battle to stop the
slaughter of suburban deer
Across the US and around the world, free-living animals are being pressed upon
at every turn by humans who so often view them collectively as a "resource" to
be "managed" or a "nuisance" to be "controlled," which are usually code words
for being killed.
Last Fall, we found ourselves leading a citizens' effort that continues to this
day to stop the baiting and shooting of our local deer herd. Thanks to an
enormous contribution of volunteer work by local activist Eric Huang (who is
also an Associate Producer of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home), a web
site called CayugaDeer.org was launched, giving voice to a growing citizens'
initiative to educate our community and seek non-violent alternatives.
This op-ed, titled "Shot for a Tulip," and written by James LaVeck,
appeared in the June 24, 2009 edition of the Ithaca Times.
Is one of the most educated communities in America losing its mind?
Cayuga Heights has been said to have the most Ph.D's per capita of any
municipality in America. Yet today, its trustees are on the verge of approving
an expensive, dangerous, and frankly bizarre plan that if put into effect, is
certain to put a serious dent in our community's well-deserved reputation for
sensible, compassionate, and forward-thinking public policy.
As most people in Ithaca know, there has been a controversy around the fate of
the deer in Cayuga Heights, whose appetite for tulips, heirloom tomatoes, and
ornamental shrubbery has, in the minds of the current mayor and trustees,
created a situation so dire and unacceptable, that action of the most extreme
sort is not only justified, but urgently required.
According to the plan now being considered, every single deer in the village is
slated to be violated or killed. The first phase involves capturing 60 female
deer, surgically sterilizing them, then puncturing their ears with numbered tags
and encumbering their necks with radio collars. These are the "lucky"
individuals. The intended fate of every other deer in Cayuga Heights, including
pregnant does and fawns, is to be shot dead at 8 to 10 undisclosed bait sites in
our neighborhood backyards. This annual massacre, to become a part of our local
culture, will be carried out by out-of-town contractors who earn their living
The ethical grotesquery of this plan appears to be lost on those who conceived
it, who seem to be oblivious to the mental and emotional torture that will be
experienced by the few deer chosen to survive, not to mention the many people
who care about these gentle animals. Year after year, deer in and around Cayuga
Heights will be lured by piles of corn into the kill zone, and those marked for
survival will watch as their herd mates are brutally killed right in front of
them. Were such a sadistic policy to be carried out against dogs or cats, or
horses, an outraged crowd of us would spontaneously rise up to stop it. But the
deer, ironically, because they live free of direct human control and are no
individual's private property, are somehow seen as unworthy of moral
Do we really want to live in a society where bureaucrats meet behind closed
doors to arbitrarily decide how many of each species are allowed to live, then
send technicians out to mark the few chosen to survive as ornamental reminders
of a bygone era, doomed to move among us as freaks festooned with the trappings
of their utter domination by humans? Do we want to cover the eyes and ears of
our children as unsuspecting animals are methodically executed in our neighbors'
Living amongst us are many people who, through wise plant choices, and skillful
use of fencing and deer repellents, enjoy beautiful gardens without causing harm
to anyone. Mass killing and extreme control of our indigenous wildlife is
neither necessary, nor ethical, nor safe. And if it is scientific at all, it
represents science at its most twisted.
Everything about this plan is emblematic of the mindset that is destroying our
planet, and at odds with what we stand for as a community. Because the trustees
of Cayuga Heights have rejected proven and practical non-violent approaches to
reducing deer-human conflict, because they refuse against all reason to allow
residents to erect fences high enough to safeguard their plantings, should the
rest of us just sit back and do nothing? Should we accept armed men firing
deadly weapons in our neighborhoods, to protect tulips? Or is it possible, with
all the brilliant, creative and compassionate people living in this community,
that we can come up with a more sensible approach? I think we can.
Some background from cayugadeer.org DRAC
releases its proposal: sterilize 60 deer, kill all the rest
June 8th, the Deer Remediation Advisory Committee (DRAC) released its
long-awaited recommendation to the Cayuga Heights trustees. The essence of this
four-page document can be boiled down to something like this:
We think there are just too many deer in the village. So we’re going to spend
$100,000 or more of taxpayers’ money to first capture 60 of them and render them
sterile, then bring in out-of-town contractors to kill every other deer we can
find, including pregnant does and fawns, year after year.
According to DRAC's plan, every single deer in Cayuga Heights is slated to
either be killed or violated. The "lucky" individuals who will be spared
a violent death will be captured, sterilized and released, their ears punctured
by tags and and their necks burdened with radio collars. They will then have the
annual experience of watching the other deer they have come to know be shot down
in front of them. The children growing up in Cayuga Heights will soon realize
that any deer without an ear tag is doomed to be killed, and that this is how we
“handle” our conflicts with wildlife, rather than being open to adjusting our
own behaviors and habits to enable us all to live in harmony together.
Specifically, DRAC’s “Report and Proposal”:
Fails to define the problem it claims
to address, reducing a complex environmental and ethical issue to a “need to
reduce the number of deer.”
Fails to present data to support its
Fails to offer the public any sort of
reasoned justification for annually bringing in out-of-town sharpshooters and/or
bow-hunters to 10-12 undisclosed killing sites within Cayuga Heights.
Fails to explain how the mass-shooting
of animals can be safely implemented within easy range of roadways, businesses
and homes, when even the Chief of Police is on record saying that he cannot
guarantee the safety of citizens if out-of-town deer-killing contractors are
Does not give serious consideration to
the numerous cost-effective alternatives to killing that concerned citizens have
brought forward, alternatives with a documented track record of success of
reducing deer-human conflicts, opting instead to implement an extreme, costly,
and highly controversial program.
Fails to adequately address the root
of the conflict with deer. Any plan that does not devote substantial time and
resources to educating the community about deer-resistant plants and about how
to protect gardens and shrubs is unrealistic.
June 2012 Deer are under
attack in British Columbia. With communities like Grand Forks, Penticton,
Victoria, and Nanaimo considering having urban deer killed as part of a
“management plan”, towns like Kimberley, Cranbrook, and Invermere have gone
ahead with lethal measures. In December, 2011, Cranbrook was the
first municipality in B.C. to get a permit from the Ministry of Forests, Lands
and Natural Resource Operations, the provincial agency responsible for deer
control. The contentious issue has received widespread media coverage and on
01/02/12 Carmina Gooch’s comment was read on CKNW’s Bill Good Show: I’m
really tired of hearing the same excuses over and over in an attempt to justify
the slaughter of our wildlife. What’s missing here is a respect for other
species and their right to life. The human population far outweighs that of the
deer, so why aren’t we addressing that issue, and managing our growth? There
aren’t problems with the animals, just those that we’ve created for them.
In February, the Invermere Deer Protection
Society won a temporary injunction in B.C. Supreme Court, which saw the kill
delayed until month’s end. The district was unable to reach its “quota” of 100,
due to the heroic actions and voices of many. While it was sad that 25 of these
magnificent animals died, it appears that other municipalities have rethought
their plans. The public has challenged and criticized the kill first mentality
of agencies and officials charged with protecting our wildlife. It’s time for
new thinking and new initiatives.
June 6, 2012
Victory for Invermere Deer
Protection Society; executing deer undignified behaviour
“Animals don’t behave like men,” says a Watership Down rabbit. “If they have to
fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down
and set their wits to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting
them. “They have dignity and animality.”
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