A major demonstration against plans to cull deer in East Hampton will occupy the green at Hook Mill on North Main Street on Saturday, January 18, starting at 1 p.m.
Animal advocates from Long Island Orchestrating For Nature (LION), the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, and the East Hampton Group for Wildlife plan to populate the green with pro-deer signs and chants, as well as a mobile television set up to show “inhumane” deer netting, according to John Di Leonardo, an anthrozoologist and president of LION, in a press release this week.
“The absolute dismissal of alternatives by East Hampton and other town and village officials is outrageous and we will not be kept quiet,” he said. “As people will see on the 18th, there is nothing about this plan that is either scientific or humane.”
In the fall of 2013, the Long Island Farm Bureau pitched the Long Island Deer Project to East End municipalities. The villages of East Hampton and Sagaponack have agreed to sign on to the culling effort, which could begin as early as this February.
U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters would be hired to kill deer using high-powered rifles outfitted with night-vision equipment and gun silencers or to net deer in bunches and kill them at close range after sharpshooters use bait to attract them.
The USDA, which conducts deer culling programs throughout the country, has estimated that its shooters could kill as many as 40 deer per night in some areas, nearly a thousand in the month or so planned for the culling program on the North and South forks. The agency has said the method is humane because deer are generally killed quickly and in non-stressful situations.
But opponents of the plan have called the project a “slaughter” and a “knee-jerk reaction.”
Not only that, but Mr. Di Leonardo and his fellow animal advocates see the act of culling as torture, saying that netting the deer puts them in a stressful situation.
“Netting hasn’t gotten any air time,” he said. “If you’ve seen it, it looks like a fish out of water. It’s horrifying. They are trying to hush the dirty details.”
The groups plan to show footage of the process to those who stop by the green on January 18.
Protesters will migrate, single file, to Herrick Park, where they will stand about 20 minutes facing Newtown Lane—the idea is to get attention.
“We are doing this in East Hampton but we want this rally to touch upon the issue for all the towns,” Mr. Di Leonardo said. “Most towns haven’t been interested in listening. We tried do letter writing and talking to them, but they’re not going to listen that way.”
A petition demanding that the culling program be abandoned, and with 8,500 signatures, was recently delivered to the Sagaponack Village Board. Many animal advocates have spoken up at town and village board meetings pleading with government officials to back off and consider alternatives, including Zelda Penzel, the founder of People for the End of Animal Cruelty and Exploitation and co-founder of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island.
“Citizens of good conscience will not stand idly by as our elected officials defy the will of the people and endorse this dangerous and inhumane ‘quick fix’ assault on wildlife,” she said about the protest. “There are non-lethal alternatives, which they are simply too lazy to investigate and implement.”
Mr. Di Leonardo said there can be a compromise and that there are other ways to keep the deer from being a nuisance—like planting vegetation they don’t like to eat, not feeding the deer and, to slow population growth, using immunocontraceptives.
“There’s already a lot of hunting, and so I don’t think there’s a need for expansion of hunting, but we’re not looking to decrease it,” he said about what should be done. “Taxpayers should know what their money is going toward. There’s nothing clean about netting a frightened deer.”
According to the protest organizers, there will be a surprise announcement on Saturday, but no one would divulge the secret or say what it regards.
“I’m afraid you will have to come to the rally to find out,” Ms. Penzel said. “We don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, prior to the rally.”