A parade of protesters took to the streets of East Hampton Village on Saturday afternoon to voice their opposition to a deer cull planned by several municipalities, including East Hampton Village, with the help of the Long Island Farm Bureau and U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters.
East Hampton Village Police estimated that perhaps 200 people turned out, while anti-cull activists, like John Di Leonardo of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION), put the number at about 300.
In their quest to get the attention of government officials, the activists shook signs and repeated anti-USDA chants. From the Hook Mill green to Herrick Park on Newtown Lane, their signs—from “It is man’s fault” to “Birth control not guns” and “Kill kill kill is not the answer”—got mixed reactions from passersby.
One man stood watching the parade on Newtown Lane and responded against the protest. “Save the deer, kill the people!” he said.
Just a few feet away in front of Babette’s, the protesters were greeted with applause.
Once they had gathered at Herrick Park, Bill Crain, the president of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, led the group in a series of chants. “You’re standing as protectors of life,” he said. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these deer killers got to go.”
Wendy Chamberlain, an animal advocate and rally organizer, told the crowd that the plan to cull deer with USDA sharpshooters must be stopped. “The USDA should be called the Wildlife Extermination Service,” she said. “They’re a bad group of people. The fact that politicians have invited them … is inexcusable.”
Ms. Chamberlain announced that animal advocates from LION, the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, and the East Hampton Group for Wildlife have hired an environmental firm from upstate, Young/Sommer LLC, to represent them in a lawsuit against any and all municipalities that sign on to the Farm Bureau’s cull program. She said the advocates are also suing the USDA, which would provide sharpshooters, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, whose approval the culling plan requires.
Mr. Crain and Ron Delsener have filed a separate lawsuit against the town and village of East Hampton, according to Mr. Di Leonardo.
“The cull is like 16th-century thinking, and this is the 21st century,” Ms. Chamberlain said after the protest, adding that the DEC is discussing a cull of mute swans, too. “These types of wildlife problems are only going to get worse unless we decide to manage our own population and not choose the most primitive form of wildlife management. It is criminally insane to do something like that. We have to rely on scientists, not on psychopaths.”
Brian Conway of Hunters for Deer said New York State and local municipalities are not using common sense. He said the deer have adapted in places where hunters are allowed to hunt, so the hunters have seen fewer deer each year. Mr. Conway said that hunters can be just as successful as USDA sharpshooters if given broader access to the animals.
Lisa Catalano, an advocate for animals from Nassau County, said the planned cull won’t help at all. “This is the biggest bunch of B.S.,” she said. “Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars?”
Ruth Vered of the Vered Art Gallery, who said she had been attacked by deer in the past, joined the crowd yelling, “Save the people!” and “F— the deer!”
Emotional protesters immediately argued back.
“So we should kill opossum, raccoons, and then deer?” asked April Carone of Hampton Bays. “All carry ticks.”
After Ms. Vered was pulled away from protesters, Ms. Carone said she had come to defend wildlife. “We need to share all of God’s creatures,” she said. “This goes back to what we did to the Native Americans. We need to protest for those without a voice.”
On Friday, before the cull protest, Kathy Cunningham of the East Hampton Village Preservation Society had pleaded with East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr. at a Village Board meeting to consider immunocontraceptives or sterilization as a complementary solution to the overpopulation of deer.
Mr. Rickenbach said that he could see a multi-year culling program taking place in conjunction with a sterilization program, but that he’d like to coordinate that effort with East Hampton Town before taking that route. Because of the “epidemic of the overpopulation of deer,” the mayor said, he would like to see the culling program move ahead first.
“It makes me think how 70 years ago they rounded up people they considered unworthy to live and now we’re doing it to other sentient beings,” East Hampton resident Linda Creash said at the protest. “I just don’t understand why the town that considers itself progressive in so many ways can resort to a mass slaughtering of living beings. Find another way.”