Deer Culling in Westchester — Rhetoric vs. Reality

I recently received the email below from my colleague (and occasional guest-blogger), Vanessa Merton.  I found the topic so interesting (and topical — see the panther post below) and the email such a good read that I asked her if I could post it on the blawg.  She agreed and so…

deer suburbs

David, I didn’t see this subject referenced on the blawg under “deer” or “hunting”, but I’m imagining that you’re well aware of the major deer “culling” (killing) movement developing all around our immediate area: in my little, recently highly gentrified, home town 12 miles from Times Square, we may have a major deer kill by this winter, probably executed (J) by sharpshooters or maybe bow hunters – see http://hastingsgov.org/W/EMAIL/2009/DEERUPDATE.html .  And of course, similar government-sponsored (not merely permitted, but sponsored) kills have been proposed for Westchester County parks — http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/lohud/access/1719154751.html?FMT=ABS&date=May+17,+2009 – and across the Hudson in Rockland County — http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/lohud/access/1723951371.html?FMT=ABS&date=May+21,+2009 .   (These “solutions”, billed as interim if not final, may soon embrace moose as well – see news story below.)

I recently sat through the first Hastings-on-Hudson legislative hearing on a deer hunt proposal and was struck by the intensity of the many advocates for mass killing and the frequency of their use of the term “rats with hooves.”  The “cull” (I wish I had time to look up the etymology of that word – it’s so exquisitely clinical) proponents proclaimed themselves “animal lovers” and said that those who opposed systematic killing of deer were NOT animal lovers but rather (with an acid tone of contempt) “deer lovers,” because deer so ravage the natural habitat, other wildlife are driven out or starved.  (I’m a little hazy on the mechanics of this phenomenon – the deer eat what skunks and possums and raccoons eat? — but apparently it’s all documented in the legislative report.)  That rhetoric adroitly raises the issue: what is the right position for an animal advocate when confronted with government proposals to exterminate or at least vastly reduce a given animal population such as rats, lice, bedbugs, mosquitoes, etc.?  (I have to tell you, if I could wave a wand or even fire a .22 and kill all the mosquitoes on earth, I’m pretty sure I’d do it.  The bats can learn to eat something else.)

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